The Prairie Train

Overview

"Once upon a time there was a train that dreamed of being a boat."

It was the train that took immigrants seeking a better life in the New World across the endless flat prairies to San Francisco. And it was the train that took Conor, a small homesick boy from Ireland, on the voyage he would remember for the rest of his life. While on that train, Conor dreams of being back in Connemara, Ireland, with his grandfather when suddenly, to his amazement, the waving prairie grass becomes the sea and the train on which he ...

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Overview

"Once upon a time there was a train that dreamed of being a boat."

It was the train that took immigrants seeking a better life in the New World across the endless flat prairies to San Francisco. And it was the train that took Conor, a small homesick boy from Ireland, on the voyage he would remember for the rest of his life. While on that train, Conor dreams of being back in Connemara, Ireland, with his grandfather when suddenly, to his amazement, the waving prairie grass becomes the sea and the train on which he is traveling, like a boat, sails across it right back to his home. How Conor comes to realize that the home he's left behind will always be with him provides a reassuring and deeply satisfying resolution to this poignant tale. The dreamlike paintings by Caldecott Honor artist Eric Rohmann combine with the lyrical text of Irish playwright Antoine Ó Flatharta to make this one of the most memorable books of this--or any--season.

As a young Irish immigrant boy travels by steam-engine across the American prairie to a new life, memories of the old country pull at his heart.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
With cadenced prose, first-time children's book author and Irish playwright O' Flatharta crafts a gentle fantasy about looking back and moving forward. Despite being created at "a time when train engines were as shiny and extraordinary as rocket ships," the Prairie Train longs "to be an old-fashioned boat with billowing sails, to take a journey that wasn't set by tracks." The opening point of view shifts abruptly to that of Conor, a young Irish immigrant bound for San Francisco, who holds tight to the toy boat built by his grandfather whom he left behind. After his prized possession accidentally falls from the train's window, Conor falls into a fitful sleep, dreaming of boats. Suddenly, the Prairie Train enters his dream, taking him across the ocean to see his grandfather, who comforts him by pointing him toward the future: "There's bigger boats waiting for you." Rohmann's work seems somewhat hampered by a more conventional story line here, in contrast to his breathtakingly imaginative work in the Caldecott Honor-winning Time Flies. Nevertheless, he successfully marries the fantastic and realistic elements of O' Flatharta's tale in a united palette mirroring both prairie and sea. The book's handsome design (panel illustrations give way to full-bleed paintings during Conor's dream), as well as Rohmann's deft portraits of Conor and his fellow immigrants, adds to the book's many deeply felt pleasures. Ages 5-10. (Oct.) Copyright 1999 Cahners Business Information.
Library Journal
Gr 1-5-"Once upon a time, there was a train that dreamed of being a boat." And once upon a time, there was Conor, a heartsick immigrant boy traveling across the prairies to a new home, his toy boat in tow. When the two meet, the world re-forms itself into a lovely fantasy. In prose rich with images and metaphor ("...the Prairie Train traveled through towering grass that moved in the wind like gigantic green waves"), O Flatharta's fanciful tale flows across the pages, drawing readers into the dream journey of the train and the boy. The story has wisdom and depth: "There's bigger boats waiting for you," his grandfather tells him in the dream. "It's the same moon that's shining on all of us. Makes no difference if you're in Connemara or San Francisco." The tale also has a satisfying and uplifting conclusion: "As the morning sun climbed higher and higher in the sky, Conor and the Prairie Train moved forward together." Rohmann's stunning paintings evoke a dreamlike state. Dramatic use of light, bold brush strokes and surprising perspectives combine to make memorable illustrations that truly complement the prose. A unique and powerful book.-Lee Bock, Glenbrook Elementary School, Pulaski, WI Copyright 1999 Cahners Business Information.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780517709894
  • Publisher: Random House Children's Books
  • Publication date: 10/12/1999
  • Format: Library Binding
  • Pages: 40
  • Age range: 5 - 8 Years
  • Product dimensions: 11.31 (w) x 8.30 (h) x 0.37 (d)

Meet the Author

Antoine Ó Flatharta lives in Ireland.
Eric Rohmann lives in the Chicago area.
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