Two boys meet a mysterious old man on their magical train journey.
Billy’s a little rough around the edges. Pushing smaller kids around, talking back to his teachers, and arguing with his parents earned him the nickname “Billy the bully.” Then there’s Stephen, the polar opposite of Billy: a quiet, sensitive kid who spends most of his time writing poems and stories in his notebook. Having had a moment of revelation regarding his behavior, Billy befriends Stephen and makes a promise to change his ways. Soon they’re friends who genuinely care about each other; with Stephen’s good influence, Billy becomes kinder and more empathetic. Nevett creates two very real and complex characters in Billy and Stephen, despite the fact that they’re only children. They infuse the story with a sense of wonder that’s usually only found in a child’s point of view. In contrast, Billy and Stephen’s parents—especially the mothers—feel like mere sketches, without the richness of character that their children possess. Inspired by a dream Stephen has about an old man waiting for a train, the two friends decide to go on a journey by train. The day of their voyage soon arrives, and after boarding the train, they’re joined by an old man named Stan—the same man from Stephen’s dream—who seems to appear out of nowhere. Stan spins yarn after yarn about his own train travels that took him all over the world, from the crowded trains of India to the vast lands of Canada and America, and the small villages of England and Scotland. Finally, he tells the boys about the island of Trinidad and its famous “Last Train.” Nevett tells a magical, inventive story, but his prose is often stilted with awkward phrasings and unnatural-sounding dialogue. Also, numerous grammatical errors, such as missing punctuation and misplaced quotation marks, distract from enjoying the plot. The significance of storytelling is highlighted in a play the two boys create based on the old man’s tales, and Nevett adds an air of intrigue with a shocking connection between the old man and Billy.
A heartwarming tale of friendship and the power of storytelling.