Saturday, August 22, 2020

The Silver Arrow by Lev Grossman
Narrated by Simon Vance

Synopsis (via Goodreads): Kate and her younger brother Tom lead desperately uninteresting lives. And judging by their desperately uninteresting parents, the future isn’t much more promising. If only life was like it is in books, where you have adventures, and save the world! Even Kate’s 11th birthday is shaping up to be mundane — that is, until her mysterious and highly irresponsible Uncle Herbert surprises her with the most unexpected, exhilarating birthday present of all time: a real-life steam locomotive called The Silver Arrow.

Kate and Tom’s parents quite sensibly tell him to take it back, but Kate and Tom have other ideas — and so does The Silver Arrow — and very soon they’re off on a mysterious journey along magical rails. On their way, they pick up a pack of talking animals: a fishing cat, a porcupine, a green mamba, a polar bear, and the sweetest baby pangolin in the world. With only curiosity, fear, adrenaline, and the thrill of the unknown to guide them, Kate and Tom are on the adventure of a lifetime — and they just might save the world after all.

"No. We're not worried because there is nothing more terrifyingly effective and resourceful than a human being. In all the four billion years that there has been life on Earth, you are the most successful animal there ever was."
I received an ARC from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. My thoughts and opinions are my own. Any quotes I use are from an unpublished copy and may not reflect the finished product.

My monsters and I really enjoyed listening to the audio version of The Silver Arrow. We've been house hunting, so it gave us something to listen to while we were in the car (or waiting for our Realtor to show up). Simon Vance did an amazing job with the narrations, and I initially confused his voice for Jim Dale's (he narrated The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern, which I listened to somewhat recently). A quick Google search set me straight! ๐Ÿ˜‰ Both narrators are incredibly talented, and I look forward to listening to other books read by them in the future.

I've enjoyed Lev Grossman's The Magicians in the past, although I never got around to watching the television show. I've heard it's pretty good! Have you seen it? When I stumbled across The Silver Arrow, I was instantly curious about how his writing style would translate to a MG book. I was not disappointed! I loved the characters - - human and animal alike - - and thought he delivered the magic and whimsy I've come to expect from his work. What I wasn't expecting was the author's subtle inclusion of important topics, like climate change, deforestation, and invasive species. Additionally, he talks about how animals are going extinct, but through the perspectives of the animals themselves.

There were a lot of sad aspects to this book, but that's only because they're true. Climate change is affecting polar bears, deforestation is limiting where certain animals can live, killing animals for sport and food have severely decreased their numbers - - it's awful to think about. Kate and Tom are spirited away on a magical train, and they have to learn how to be conductors in addition to the unexpected Life Lessons taught to them by the train, animals, and nature itself. They spent some time as trees, which was very trippy but also incredibly thought-provoking. 

I also liked that the author didn't paint their parents in a negative light, but showed how time can desensitize and alter how people perceive the world. They get busy with their day-to-day lives and forget to look at what's happening on a larger scale. Additionally, adults will talk to children like they're too young to understand this or that, but they comprehend more than we think they do. It's a disservice to them to assume that conversations about the world would go completely over their heads. They might need some concepts explained, but they're very inquisitive and eager to learn.

"When you're a child the adult world looks so exciting, and it is, but it's also so much sadder and more complicated that you expect. And you can't just take the good parts, you have to take it all, even if it's not what you wanted."

I'm not going to lie, this book had me sniffling in the car. There were some really powerful moments there at the end, and Tom and Kate's experiences will likely stay with me for a very long time. There were so many teachable moments in this book, and it encouraged important discussions between me and my children. They're a little too young to fully grasp the scope of what they author was trying to convey, but they did get the gist and were open to learning more.

I thought The Silver Arrow was wonderfully written, and I think the author expertly conveyed important issues in way children will be able to relate to. Kate and Tom learn the value of hard work and determination, develop friendships with unlikely creatures, and achieve goals that exceed their own expectations. I loved watching them grow and cultivate their understanding of the world, and seeing their joy after overcoming seemingly impossible tasks. Lev Grossman has made magic with this story, and really highlights the importance of never giving up.  (★★★★⋆)


  1. I love that you were able to share this one with your kids. We used to listen to audiobooks in the car with our mom, except they were "books on tape" back then haha.

    1. I remember those! We never listened to books on tape, but my dad sang in the choir at church, and he had songs/musicals recorded on tapes that he would pop in. My parents aren't big readers. ๐Ÿ˜ฑ

  2. I'm glad to hear that your kids liked it as well.

    1. I'm happy we had an opportunity to listen to the audio! It was fantastic. :)


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