As part of our ongoing collaboration with the Book House of Stuyvesant Plaza, our writers have accepted the challenge of reading and reviewing pre-publication review copies of highly anticipated young adult literature. The reviews are posted here for our readers, but also will be sent to the Book House where they will hopefully be used to inform customers about the books they may want to purchase.
The Train of Lost Things
by Ammi-Joan Paquette
Published March 20, 2018
208 pages, Philomel Books
The Train of Lost Things by Ammi-Joan Paquette is about a boy named Marty. His dad has a very influential role in this life until he finds out that his dad has cancer. This is extremely hard for Marty and as a result he shuts out his closest friend named Jax. Ever since Marty was a little boy, he and his father would collect pins and he would put them on his jean jacket which his father also gave to him. Marty found comfort in this jacket because his father once told him about the pins “ ‘One for each memory we never want to forget. See? That’s how you capture today and keep it forever ‘ “ (11-12). One day Marty can’t find his jacket even after looking everywhere. He remembers a story that his father told him one time. It was about the train of lost things and that everything that is lost is sent to a train that travels around. Marty is determined to find this jacket because he believes that it is the one link he has to his father and will keep him alive.
Marty sets out on an adventure to find the train. He first goes to the train station but quickly realizes that a magical train won’t pick him up there. He then hears a horn and strat s following the sound. There is then a huge cloud of fog that directs him to the train. Once he finds the train he runs into a girl named Dina, she is also trying to retrieve something that she values from the train of lost things. They have a hard time getting into the train because the doors won’t open until they remember that it is magical. The can slip through the window like ghost. Once inside they see piles of junk and they wonder if anyone works on the train to keep things organized. Marty was hesitant to tell Dina what he was looking for so they split up instead of working together. After a while, they realize it would go faster if they worked together. Dina tells Marty that she is looking for a locket in the shape of a train. Inside her locket is a picture of Dina and her Mom. Dina and Marty both have a hard time finding their lost possessions when suddenly they hear someone on the roof. When they go to see who it is, it is a girl named Star. Star knows information about the train and explains that there is suppose to be a driver to drive and control the train as well as the conductor who organizes and returns all the lost goods. Star says that both the driver and the conductor left so it is just her on the train. She tries her best but there is just too much stuff that floods into the train. Star also lets Marty and Dina know that they only have till sunrise until the train kicks them off.
Now in a hurry, Dina and Marty start frantically searching all the train cars for the locket and the jacket. While searching they see a face in the fog that surrounds the train. Star explains that when you die, you can stop buy and collect your missing goods before you go to the Other Side. They are pretty much ghosts reclaiming their lost possessions. Marty ends up finding three of his pins that must of fallen off of his jacket. Later, Dina finds her locket which was wrapped in Star’s scarf. When Dina claims she found her locket, Star argues that it is hers until the thought bubble pops up and shows Dina and her Mom. Star then says that Dina’s mom use to be the conductor on the train and told Star to hang onto it for when Dina comes looking. It turns out that Star is also a ghost, therefore has the power to drive the train and Marty and Dina get pulled off the train because of the sunrise. Marty goes back home and tells his dad all about it but he says he never found the jacket. Marty’s dad dies and Marty’s jacket shows up on the doorstep a week later.
There are a couple major themes in this book. Perseverance can be seen throughout the books and especially in Marty which makes it a theme. “ They fell upon their search with gusto, digging, sifting, sorting, heaping, piling” (91). Marty never gave up looking for his jacket. He knew that it was a special connection between him and his dad, so he kept looking even after he searched for hours. Another major theme is grief and dying. Marty is dealing with the fact that his dad who he admires, is dying right in front of him. At the beginning of the book, Marty is in denial that his dad is dying even after his mom says “ ‘ Days, hon. At most, we’ve got days left’ “(18). Marty still believes that his dad will get better. However, at the end of the book Marty knows that his dad is dying and will die very soon. When he does die Marty is devastated. “Dad’s eyes were closed. His face was flat. He was gone… Marty buried his face in his hands and sobbed” (182). The character development of Marty at the beginning to end with response to his father’s death, helps form the theme of grief and dying within the novel.
The genre of the book is fantasy. The train is obviously magical and not real, but in the book the train does turn out to be real because it is inferred that his dad goes to work on the train and that Dina who he met on the train texts him. It is also realistic in many mays. Marty is just an average kid that goes to school and is going through a major crisis right now. Unfortunately, more and more kids have to deal with the problems he is facing. Cancer is an awful disease and is taking away too many people in the world. If a reader is going through the same problem as Marty, I think it is a good way to relate but also know that everything will be okay. Marty’s stages of emotion are similar to what the reader may be feeling. I think the ending is also very cute and comforting. It is sad that Marty’s dad dies but then it is implied that he goes to work on the train with Star. He is able to return Marty’s jacket to him which Marty probably wouldn’t have seen again without the help of his father. It also shows that his father will always he there and looking down on him and watching out sort of like a guardian angel. I think a reader can relate and also find comfort when reading this book.
Overall, I really enjoyed the book. It was below my reading level and meant for middle school students but I still liked it. The concept was cute and there were many important lessons that can be learned from it.