Friday 21 July 2023

The Dragon on the Train

The Dragon on the Train by Ben Brooks (Hachette Australia) PB RRP $16.99  ISBN 9781786541901

Reviewed by Kerry Gittins

Gone. It was a word that made sense and made no sense at all. How was he supposed to concentrate at school and make sense of anything when his grandma had just . . . well, gone. Not only had grandma been Elliot's connection to his love of music, but she was his best friend, too. Now the last thing he wanted to do was play his violin. Music just didn't feel the same without her there. One afternoon his mum knocked on the bedroom door and handed him an old cassette tape in an envelope that grandma had left just for him. As it played, the loop of four simple notes seemed to be asking him questions and demanding answers that he wasn't ready to give. Finally, he let his grief explode and when he was done, he fell into a deep, dreamless sleep. But just before midnight, he was awoken by a snuffling sound and when he opened his eyes, it wasn't what he thought it might be. Sitting beside his bed, eating the dinner his mum had left for him was - a dragon!

'I'm your guide for the journey . . .' said Kimorin the dragon.
'. . . I'm not going anywhere,' protested Elliot.
'Are you sure? So, you ain't got a ticket?'  

Elliot remembered the ticket he had found under his pillow sixteen days after grandma had died. The only thing on it that he had recognised was his name - and now the dragon's. Elliot's journey on The Night Train was about to begin.

From the very first chapter we feel the enormity of Elliot's loss and sense the love and connection he shared with his grandmother through music. But whilst acknowledging that grief and sadness, Ben Brooks also encourages the reader to embrace the magic of the journey, the importance of friendship and family, and the power of music to heal and inspire hope. A warmhearted and uplifting story for ages 7 +. Highly recommended.

Teaching themes could include grief, loss, dragons, trains, family, friendship, magic, magical creatures, boys, emotions, music, composing, musical compositions.

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