Model trains, time travel, and cameo appearances by Ronald Reagan and Alfred Hitchcock, among others, make this adventure an ideal family read-aloud. "One day everything in the world was fine. Dad and I had lamb chops and ice cream," says Oscar Ogilvie, 11, about life with his widowed father in 1929 smalltown Illinois. Self-reliant and companionable, Oscar makes dinner so he and his father, a tractor salesman, can spend their evenings constructing elaborate railroad layouts. Then the Great Depression hits, and the Ogilvies lose their house and, worse, their trains, which are put on display in the bank lobby. Oscar's kindness to a laid-off math teacher turns serendipitous when the teacher becomes the bank's night watchman, giving Oscar access to his trains. During one after-hours visit, the bank is robbed; Oscar escapes by diving into the model train set, where he crisscrosses time and the continent, unscrambling what's happened to him. Well-drawn secondary characters and evocative details bring the hardscrabble 1930s to life. Ibatoulline's intricately detailed illustrations, both full-page and double-spread, have a Norman Rockwell quality that reinforces the setting and adds a nostalgic air. Ages 10–up. (Sept.)
From the Publisher
Ibatoulline's full-color, atmospheric Norman Rockwell-like vignettes enhance the nostalgic feel of this warm, cleverly crafter adventure.
—Kirkus Reviews (starred review)
School Library Journal
Gr 4–7—Eleven-year-old Oscar and his father share a love for model trains and they set up an elaborate layout in their basement. After the Crash of 1929, Oscar's dad loses the house and the trains to the bank. The boy is sent to live with his aunt while his father goes to look for work in California. One day, while Oscar is visiting his trains which have been set up in the bank's Christmas display, he jumps into the train setup to avoid armed bank robbers and is catapulted through time and across the country. On the journey he meets famous people from the future and past as he searches for a way back to his own time and home. Malcolm Hillgartner reads Rosemary Wells's interesting and heartwarming story (Candlewick, 2010) in a pleasant, fatherly tone, giving each character a unique voice. However, it's disappointing that he doesn't consistently change Oscar's voice when time travel causes him to grow older or younger. Hillgartner attempts some celebrity impressions of the Hollywood stars and famous people mentioned in the book, but they will be lost on anyone under the age of 40. This audiobook does not reach the level of another time travel novel, Edward Bloor's London Calling (Knopf, 2006; Listening Library, 2006).—Donna Cardon, Provo City Library, UT
Time travel hurts. Eleven-year-old Oscar Ogilvie, Jr., first discovers this when he--dodging bullets in an armed robbery--belly-dives into a model train layout at the First National Bank of Cairo, Ill., on Christmas Eve 1931 and, miraculously, finds himself aboard a real train headed for California with the dashing future president "Dutch." Next stop: Oscar is a strapping 21-year-old in danger of being the first fifth grader drafted into the U.S. Army! Oscar's top-notch at any age, and his close relationship with his father (a fellow model-train fanatic) is the heart of this buoyant, mostly Depression-era romp. Abundant historical and literary allusions--and a cast of real-life characters from Joan Crawford to Alfred Hitchcock--enrich the story (though they may be lost on some). Even when the novel teeters on didacticism's edge, readers will be disarmed by Oscar's compassionate nature, amused by his colorful, well-sketched friends and captivated by his "Triumphs and Disasters" (from Kipling's poem "If," affectionately referenced). Ibatouilline's full-color, atmospheric Norman Rockwell–like vignettes enhance the nostalgic feel of this warm, cleverly crafted adventure. (Historical fiction/time travel. 11 & up)