Sam Sedgman, co-author of the Adventures on Trains mystery series, has teamed up with illustrator Sam Brewster to produce a fact-filled and attractively designed globetrotting children’s information book which uses different train journeys as a way of exploring every continent of the world.
Sedgman begins by reminding us that ‘There is no finer way to travel than by train’. His love of rail travel is infectious, and the selected train journeys offer an excellent vehicle to explore not just the history of rail travel but also to learn more about the geography, history and culture of the different countries we visit.
The book includes familiar routes such as the Eurostar, the Orient Express and the Trans-Siberian Express, as well as many which were new to me, including the Andean Explorer and the Arctic Sleeper. Sedgman and Brewster use two double-page spreads for each route, and some of the north-south routes require readers to rotate the book, adding to a sense of interactivity to the reading experience. Surrounding each route are illustrations of different cities, landmarks and wildlife we would pass on our journeys, and a wide range of illuminating facts on topics ranging from tunnel boring machines to Japanese etiquette to ‘Australia’s poo problem’ (caused by the lack of dung beetles in Australia!). The twelve journeys are interspersed with spreads on topics including famous feats of railway engineering and some of the world’s abandoned railway stations.
I can see this being a popular book across quite a wide age range at primary level: younger readers will enjoy tracing the different journeys and picking out a few of the facts that have been included, while older readers will appreciate the depth in some of the topics explored, especially Sedgman’s honest reflections on ‘the darker truths that lurk in the sidings’ and the ways that ‘many of the world’s railways were first built to exploit, oppress and steal from people’, with a particular focus on the impact of railways on different indigenous people.
The detail and vibrancy of Brewster’s illustrations are matched by Sedgman’s evocative and engaging writing, from the first page onwards when he relates how ‘For 200 years, trains have clanked, rumbled, and whooshed across our planet, letting passengers from bustling cities and tiny villages gaze out of the window and watch the world go by.’ The introduction is a great example of travel writing and lends itself to reading aloud to a class, before allowing children to choose their destination and explore subsequent pages independently: it is bound to spark a love for rail travel in many young readers.
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