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On the Blue Comet by Rosemary Wells

On the Blue Comet

by Rosemary Wells

Other authors: Bagram Ibatoulline (Illustrator)

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Showing 1-5 of 9 (next | show all)
Well done, highly recommended. ( )
  MikeDI | May 27, 2018 |
Great book! ( )
  David.TenBroeck | May 8, 2016 |
I thought this a VERY irritating book. It started so well, with a finely crafted portrait of a bereaved father and son, withdrawing into a private world after a devastating loss. Then...


The story veers into fantasy. The boy, Oscar, goes from being a self-sufficient boy who takes it upon himself to cook for a hungry stranger, to a helpless waif over whom the rest of the plot washes like ocean waves. The mechanism for the sudden ability to travel by toy train is poorly explained. Is it something the mysterious Mr. Applegate engineers? ( pun intended) Is it a magic word? Is it built in to the trains themselves, and triggered in a moment of great need? Maybe. But another character who manages this trick has neither the help of a mysterious stranger nor the a magic word nor the urgency of young Oscar.

The author has littered the story with historical characters. Most readers in the target age group for this book have never heard of most of them, and so the little winky winky scene with Oscar encountering a golly-gee all-American young actor named Dutch will completely go over their heads. ("You're not a politician, are you?" I asked Dutch. "Not in a pig's ear!" said Dutch.)

I couldn't even figure out a consistent political view, if the author intended one in a book hero-worshipping Ronald Reagan. All the fat cat pre-Depression Wall Street businessmen are greedy, but Wells also features a sneering, stuck-up teenage John F. Kennedy.

The cloyingly sweet descriptions of Dutch made me roll my eyes. He was "clearly a young man of character" and "just having him on the train made me feel safe all over." The book is full of such snap judgements: Oscar instantly trusts Ronald Reagan based on a handshake; another character lets complete strangers into the mansion in her care because one of them "has such an honest face." Oscar instantly trusts a stranger at the door because he's clean-shaven and is carrying a thick book. Well, good, this all saves having to read any character development...

Then there's the appearance of the mysterious Chinese lady, Miss Chow, who refers to herself in the third person and speaks in an astonishingly breathless, stereotyped way: "Miss Chow hears everything!" Thanks goodness she has a mysterious hypnotic stone that will let Oscar remember all the details of a robbery locked away in his memory! "Chinese method going back two thousand years!"

The most annoying thing was what this book lacked. Our hero manages to travel forward and backward in time in his quest to be reunited with his father. He manages to change the personal history of a recently acquired friend. But seriously, it never occurs to him to try to stop the accident that killed his mother? ( )
1 vote Turrean | Feb 15, 2014 |
Eleven-year-old Oscar Ogilvie lives in Cairo, Illinois with his father. The two share a love of model trains, and spend evenings working on their elaborate set up in the basement. The stock market crash of 1929 does not affect them immediately, but ultimately it causes his father to lose his job, the house, and the model train collection. Oscar Senior heads to California to look for work while his son moves in with a straightlaced aunt. The only joy in young Oscar's life is the time he spends with Mr. Applegate, a former math teacher who is also drifting around looking for work. One day, Oscar is at the bank where Mr. Applegate has gotten a job as the night guard. The train set that the Ogilvies lost ended up decorating the bank lobby, and the two enjoy spending time watching it run. When two armed robbers break into the bank, Mr. Applegate yells at Oscar to jump. He jumps-- right onto the train set, where he magically finds himself in a full-sized station and hops the first train that comes. The train catapults him 10 years into the future, so when he is reunited with his father in California, it is 1941 and the 11 year old Oscar (in a 21-year-old body) is in danger of being arrested for draft-dodging. A little reminiscent of Edward Bloor's "London Calling," Wells' story has enough going on that it could easily become convoluted, but she manages to keep the story moving and the reader engaged throughout as Oscar hops multiple trains in an effort to get back to his correct time period. The resolution is a little too pat, but overall, this is a charming story of adventure and the bond between father and son. Beautiful illustrations by Bagram Ibatoulline help immerse readers in the 1930's and 1940's.
( )
  KimJD | Apr 8, 2013 |
On the Blue Comet is a time travel novel for young adults. The story details the adventures of Oscar, a young boy from the Midwest, as he travels back and forth through time. The period of time travel is 1926-1941 and the travels are confined to the continental U.S. Toy trains from this period (the Lionel Blue Comet being one of them) provide the means for Oscar to travel through time.

On the Blue Comet tries to use historical facts of artifacts of the period (the toy trains) as well as historical facts of the time to support the story and give it a sense of reality. Weaving facts into a work of fiction is done all the time. However, if facts are going to be used to support a fictional premise one needs to take extra care with respect to the accuracy of the facts employed. On the Blue Comet fails in this regard and the list of mistakes goes on for pages.

Some Toy Train Errors:

First page - "red cardboard box labeled The Lionel Company, Rochester, New York"

Lionel's train boxes were never red cardboard - the standard set box in 1931 was tan cardboard with glued on labels. The labels came in various colors but even they weren't red.

It was never "Company" and Lionel never had a facility in Rochester. For the time period it would be "The Lionel Corporation - New York, Chicago, Los Angeles"

"two cattle cars, a coaler, a caboose, and a refrigerator car" There is no car in the pantheon of American trains known as "a coaler" - from the description I think the author was trying to say "tender" or perhaps "hopper car."

"little blue seats right under the arc of the Plexiglas dome" - this to describe one of the Blue Comet cars with a supposed built date of 1930. Plexiglas sheet was first offered in 1936. The Blue Comet cars were "heavyweights" and these cars never had domed observations. The first real domed observation was introduced on the Chicago, Burlington, and Quincy Railroad in 1945. Lionel didn't offer a domed observation in their product line until 1952. That observation was a streamlined passenger car and it was in O gauge – not Standard Gauge – the track gauge of the Lionel Blue Comet.

" Dad and I stood together , wrapped on all sides by trains racing this way and that way , their smoke pellets pouring smoke....Listen to that whistle..." Neither of these things would have been possible in 1931. Lionel did not offer smoking steam engines until 1946 - when they also introduced the smoke pellets. Smoke pellets don’t “pour smoke” – they melt and the vapor is blown out of the smokestack. The first electric whistle was offered by Lionel in 1935.

"there were forklifts, coal ramps, and barrel loaders." Not in 1941 - these were all post WWII items.

"ten trains ran in and out of its mammoth roundhouse." - Trains do not run in and out of roundhouses.
Picture of Christopher Crawford’s layout - the train set is supposed to be on display in 1941. The Diesel in the center of the picture was first made by Lionel in the 1990's.

Some Historical/Technical errors:

On one page the date is set as September 1, 1931 and on the next page Oscar's Dad is giving him a case of Spam - Hormel didn't introduce Spam until 1937. Similarly, a few pages later Oscar’s sister, Willa Sue, is eating Ritz crackers which were first marketed in 1934.

" Professor Einstein is just a mathematician" - He was a physicist and he received the Nobel Prize in Physics.

" a rocket ship going a hundred and twenty thousand miles an hour ...a passenger would die instantly from g forces." There are no g forces associated with velocity - a passenger in a rocket ship going 120,000 miles an hour wouldn't feel anything more than a passenger in a car going 60 miles an hour.

I’m willing to assume artistic license with respect to claiming particle accelerators could be used for time travel but the first accelerator was built in the U.S. in 1931 not Germany. The German for "time pocket" would be Zeit Tasche not Zeit Hulsen which would translate as "time husk".

No FBI in 1931 - the kidnap law wasn't passed until 1932 so no all state bulletins and the FBI was not called "FBI" until 1935.

Christopher Crawford was born in April 1941 and was adopted by Joan Crawford that same year and then reclaimed by his birth mother - not likely he would have had a huge Lionel train set in 1941.

Combat parachute drops in Siberia to help the Russians fight the Germans in the Arctic Circle. The Germans attacked Russia in June 22, 1941 and were stopped short of Moscow by December - there were no Germans fighting in Siberia at any time during WWII. One does not fight in the Arctic Circle - you either fight above it or below it.

The basic premise of On the Blue Comet is different and the book reads reasonably well. If lack of factual accuracy in a work of fiction isn’t something that bothers you then perhaps you might find the book to be to your liking. ( )
  alco261 | Mar 2, 2012 |
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Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Rosemary Wellsprimary authorall editionscalculated
Ibatoulline, BagramIllustratorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 076363722X, Hardcover)

Trains and time travel spur one boy’s thrilling adventure as he seeks to rejoin his father in a new classic from Rosemary Wells and Bagram Ibatoulline.

One day in a house at the end of Lucifer Street, on the Mississippi River side of Cairo, Illinois, eleven-year-old Oscar Ogilvie’s life is changed forever. The Crash of 1929 has rippled across the country, and Oscar’s dad must sell their home—with all their cherished model trains—and head west in search of work. Forced to move in with his humorless aunt, Carmen and his teasing cousin, Willa Sue, Oscar is lonely and miserable—until he meets a mysterious drifter and witnesses a crime so stunning it catapults Oscar on an incredible train journey from coast to coast, from one decade to another. Filled with suspense and peppered with witty encounters with Hollywood stars and other bigwigs of history, this captivating novel by Rosemary Wells, gorgeously illustrated by Bagram Ibatoulline, resonates with warmth, humor, and the true magic of a timeless adventure.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:19:25 -0400)

When the Depression hits in Cairo, Illinois, and Oscar Ogilvie's father must sell their home and vast model train set-up to look for work in California, eleven-year-old Oscar is left with his dour aunt, where he befriends a mysterious drifter, witnesses a stunning bank robbery, and is suddenly catapulted onto a train that takes him to a different time and place.… (more)

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