Running with Trains: A Novel in Poetry and Two Voices

Michael J. Rosen. Boyds Mills/Wordsong, $15.95 (112p) ISBN 978-1-59078-863-9
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This understated novel from Rosen (The Hound Dog’s Haiku) is composed of alternating poems written from the perspectives of two boys whose lives briefly intersect. The year is 1969, and 13-year-old Perry travels via train between his grandparents’ houses in Cincinnati and Wapakoneta, Ohio. In his notebook, he reflects on his father, who is missing in Vietnam; writes to his sister, Annie; and struggles with feelings of rootlessness: “What’s home to me since I have two homes now/ (one with Mom and Grandpa, one with Gran),/ two closets of clothes, two desks,/ two beds where I sleep, two dogs.” Nine-year-old Steve, weighed down by chores, is both fascinated and a little intimidated by the larger world outside his family’s farm (“With luck, one day/ I’ll ride the train—the whole route—/ not just dream it”). Rosen’s poetry, mostly blank verse, circles contemplatively around themes of powerlessness, longing, and growing up. The novel travels at a satisfying hum, though Steve and Perry’s quiet reflections have a restraint at times too timid to leave a lasting impression. Ages 10–up. Agent: Ruben Pfeffer, East West Literary. (June)
Reviewed on: 05/07/2012
Release date: 04/01/2012
Genre: Children's
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