That Night's Train

Overview


On a train trip with her grandmother, young Banafsheh meets a woman who reminds her of her dead mother. The woman is a teacher and a writer, and she promises she will call Banafsheh and come and tell her stories. Later, the teacher weaves the encounter into a story that she tells to the children in her classroom. The children are entranced by the story and imagine how it will turn out. Surely, they say, the teacher will call the little girl.

But the teacher never calls, though ...

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Overview


On a train trip with her grandmother, young Banafsheh meets a woman who reminds her of her dead mother. The woman is a teacher and a writer, and she promises she will call Banafsheh and come and tell her stories. Later, the teacher weaves the encounter into a story that she tells to the children in her classroom. The children are entranced by the story and imagine how it will turn out. Surely, they say, the teacher will call the little girl.

But the teacher never calls, though Banafsheh waits faithfully by the phone and refuses even to go out to play. Meanwhile, the teacher is disconcerted by her class’s reaction, and she agonizes over how to end her story. As a writer, she feels that the story is more important than anything else, and that the ending must be exciting and eventful, no matter what. Perhaps Banafsheh will even have to become ill and die?

In the end, the teacher does visit Banafsheh, but finds that it is too little too late. Banafsheh is very angry with the teacher, and hurt. Finally, the teacher makes the biggest sacrifice she knows — her manuscript — in order to save the friendship.

This is a thought-provoking and emotionally powerful novel that raises intriguing and child-friendly questions about how real life and stories are interwoven, who owns stories, and whether they can ever truly disappear.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
First published in 1999, Iranian writer Akbarpour’s (Good Night, Commander) story starts during the train journey of the title, as a teacher, never named, befriends Banafsheh, a motherless five-year-old girl. With uncanny insight into the chasm between the casual words of adults and the literal way they are grasped by children, Akbarpour portrays Banafsheh’s conviction that the friendly teacher will call her on the very day she has promised and, further, that she will one day replace the mother Banafsheh has so recently lost: “She imagined the teacher really coming to visit and how she would talk to her easily and openly. She would say, ‘I knew God would send me a mother.’ ” With little concern for Banafsheh’s anguish, the teacher—who is also a writer—does not call for months, and the novel switches viewpoints to explore the teacher-writer’s inner life and the way her fictional creations intertwine with reality. Despite a last-minute happy ending and an omniscient narrative that tempers some of the tension of Banafsheh’s long wait, Akbarpour’s record of a child’s grief may hit too hard for some. Ages 9–up. (Oct.)
From the Publisher

"The train lay there like a dragon from a fairy tale, with no ends in sight. The teacher thought about fairy tales, and how some of them were real, and some imaginary."
— from the book
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781554981694
  • Publisher: Groundwood Books
  • Publication date: 10/9/2012
  • Pages: 96
  • Age range: 9 years
  • Product dimensions: 5.00 (w) x 7.50 (h) x 0.48 (d)

Meet the Author


Ahmad Akbarpour is a novelist, short-story writer and author of children’s books. He has won the Iranian National Book Award and was selected for the IBBY (International Board on Books for Young People) honor list in 2006. He is the author of the picture book Good Night, Commander, illustrated by Morteza Zahedi (Groundwood, 2010). He lives in Shiraz, Iran.
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