Title: On the Blue Comet
Author: Rosemary Wells
Illustrator: Bagram Ibatoulline
Publisher: Candlewick Press
Concepts: poverty, scarcity, jobs, unemployment, Great Depression
Review: Life for Oscar Ogilvie and his father became more difficult in the summer of 1931 when the Great Depression took away all of his dad's customers and forced them to resort to a diet of canned yams and Ham Stix. Not much later, the bank took over their home as well as their valuable Lionel toy train set. Oscar went to live with his Aunt while his dad left Illinois to find work in California.
The tough economic times also brought adventure into Oscar's life. He befriended a former teacher who had lost his job and become homeless. In return for meals prepared in his Aunt's kitchen, Oscar received tutoring sessions, including a lesson about negative velocity and time travel. Mysteriously, the time travel became reality for Oscar when a series of unusual circumstances led him to witness a violent bank robbery and to travel through time on the Lionel train set. Perhaps he could find his father again or even, hope against hope, gain some more clarity about that fateful evening at the bank.
Children can let their imaginations soar through time and space as they read this action-packed work of historical fiction. Along the way they will take in a good dose of economics associated with the causes of the Great Depression and the resulting unemployment, homelessness, and even nutritional deprivation. The time travel may defy children's beliefs but the hardships associated with the Depression should leave a very real impression.
Review by: Rutgers University Project on Economics and Children