The Silver Arrow by Lev Grossman

I started this book because I wanted a simple, fun, escape from 2021 and all its COVID-19 glory – worrying, inconceivable dystopian headlines, irrational stupidity, etc. Mission accomplished with The Silver Arrow!

Two kids – Kate and her little brother Tom - climb onto a magic talking steam engine that charges off across their backyard and way beyond. Along the way they build a train with a candy car, a swimming pool car, a mystery car – and regular cars too - then drive all over the world picking up talking animals – only the ones with tickets, though. Kate and Tom, the train and all of the animals have hilarious conversations and a lot of fun.

Great books achieve more than one thing. Mixed into the action-packed, comedic plot are other themes. One theme stands out, that the world’s creatures are precious and need protecting. For example, all of the animal characters are unusual, endangered species – a white bellied heron, a pangolin, a fishing cat, a green mamba, etc. Mentioning these species might encourage kids to look them up. Also at one point the train needs firewood. Kate and Tom and their animal friends enter an ancient forest and ask the trees for wood. In exchange, they magically become trees for a time. The scenes that follow are incredibly moving, as Kate feels, moves, and experiences seasons, wind, cold, and sunshine, as a tree.

Finally, I’ll quote the mamba character (page 208) as I think this is the reason Lev Grossman wrote the book. The mamba says Kate shouldn’t “…feel bad about what humans have done…Feeling guilty doesn’t help… Humans are animals doing what all animals do: surviving. It’s just that you’ve done it too well… You’ve won, you’ve taken over the world. Now you just have to take care of it.”

Recommend this book to readers as a fun, magic escape. The book may also spark a passion for environmentalism.  

Middle Grade Fiction pr5685873

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