I enjoyed reading this book. I liked how the two stories seemed to connect even though they only saw each other through the windows of the train. Each of the two boys, Perry who rides back and forth on the train alternating between two differant houses, and Steve who lives in a close-knit family on a farm, wish for each other’s lives. It is a really unique book, but i was sometimes confused. The poetry fit this book really well. The only reasons that i think this can’t win the newbery is because i have read better books this year and because at the end i felt like hardly anything had changed, I think it would have been better it the two boys really met.
Good morning, Krista! Thanks for your generous reading of the book, your willingness to go along for the ride. And it IS a bumpy one. Lives aren’t all that simple, even if we’d like them or imagine them to be. In fact, I wonder if YOUR confusion is really the confusions shared by the boys. They are both confused. Or at least ambivalent.
One of my favorite quotes about poetry is by W. H. Auden, who said poetry is “clear thinking about mixed feelings.” (The opposite, I think, is “clear feelings about mixed thinking,” which sound a lot like propaganda and politicking to me.)
So I hope the book observes Auden’s idea.
You are right: The boys lives are unchanged. Neither can alter their realities for the moment…neither can get off their “train” or conduct it somewhere else. For now.
But the boys DID meet. And the two last poems each offer one boy’s version of that meeting. Clearly, each made something entirely different of the cows stopping the train.
And, I believe, I hope, reveals that something has changed in each of them—a sense of perspective, a more realistic or strengthened understanding of their lives—even if their circumstances, for the present, haven’t changed.
If you have other thoughts or questions, feel free to write me. (And I am not offering simply to boost my book’s votes in the Mock Newbery there! lol)
Best wishes, MJR