cover image The Silver Arrow

The Silver Arrow

Lev Grossman. Little, Brown, $16.99 (272p) ISBN 978-0-316-53953-1

Blending elements of conservation and magic, Grossman (The Magicians, for adults) crafts a timeless-feeling, Travers-tinged adventure in his middle grade debut. On her 11th birthday, Kate’s uncle Herbert, “very rich and totally irresponsible,” gives her an unexpected present: a life-size steam locomotive named the Silver Arrow. Kate and her younger brother Tom, finding the train fueled, are soon swept away by the sentient locomotive—which communicates with them via printed messages—first to acquire a selection of train cars (including delightfully stuffed candy and library compartments), and then to serve as conductors on an international rail system that transports talking animals, large and small, to new habitats. While learning to run the train and solve problems on their own, the siblings bond with myriad passengers and begin to understand global issues surrounding endangered and invasive species, habitat loss, and environmental stewardship. Though it’s unclear why the magic train burns coal—a nonrenewable resource—in service of otherwise strong ecological messaging, whimsical details and well-wrought moments of adventure are neverthless certain to draw young readers. Final art not seen by PW. Ages 8–up[em]. (Sept.) [/em]