On the Blue Comet

Written by Rosemary Wells
Review by Val Loh

Oscar Ogilvie lives with his father in Cairo, Illinois, at the end of Lucifer Street. He is an 11-year-old boy who shares a love of model trains with his dad. This mutual pastime occupies them as they work together building up their collection after Oscar’s mother died in an explosion where she worked. When the great stock market crash happens, leading to a time of countrywide depression, their happiness is destroyed once more. His father loses his job, their house and has to sell the trains. The care of Oscar falls to his Aunt Carmen as his father heads west in search of work. Life changes for Oscar, becoming more serious and studious, until he is caught up in a robbery and is almost killed, but he manages to jump through time, saved by his beloved trains.

This is a very sensitively written novel which will entice train lovers, young and adult alike. It describes the situation in America after the crash of the markets, showing the impact the situation had on ordinary families. We follow Oscar as he faces the harsh reality of life, but who also discovers, through a friend, how he can achieve despite everything.

Oscar’s journey really picks up pace when he jumps to escape being shot and finds he has landed in the future. Here he meets historical characters who help him to return to his present with the knowledge that could help solve a robbery and a murder.

The beautiful retro-illustrations (by Bagram Ibatoulline) of key moments within the story add to the book’s overall appeal.