That Night's Train

tr. from Persian by Majid Saghafi. illus. by Isabelle Arsenault. 96p. Groundwood/House of Anansi. 2012. Tr $14.95. ISBN 978-1-55498-169-4; pap. $9.95. ISBN 978-1-55498-170-0.
Gr 3–5—A bizarre and convoluted story line featuring a set of characters whose roles alter within several parallel arcs makes this book a strange choice for children. On a train ride, a five-year-old and her grandmother encounter a young woman who is a teacher and an author and who, to the little girl, resembles her deceased mother. The teacher promises to call Banafsheh the following week to tell her stories, but pretty much ignores her for three months while the child waits and then becomes resentful. In the meantime, the teacher reads her class a story that she has written about an old man, a little girl, and death. At the same time, she is in the process of creating a new story based on the youngster from the train, but she is finding difficulty in creating an exciting plot while she contemplates creating a serious illness or death scene for her. Three months later, the teacher finally makes a visit to Banafsheh's home, only to be rebuffed for taking so long to keep her promise. Readers will be confused by the continual back and forth between the teacher/author's story writing and telling and the real-life situation with the child. The use of an omniscient voice to explain the author's thinking is also strange and adds little to this short piece that lacks sufficient characterization, plot development, intrigue, and theme. And while Akbarpour is recognized as an Iranian National Book Award winner, either something is lost in the translation or there is too much of a cultural gap for American readers to enjoy this import.—Rita Soltan, Youth Services Consultant, West Bloomfield, MI

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