I grew up in a town (not a city), in a house (not an apartment), but I had a sister who bothered me, parents who did parent stuff, and my grandparents lived upstairs. Thanksgiving and Christmas mornings I never slept in, not because of the excitement, but because my grandmother’s kitchen was over my bedroom and I could hear her mashing, chopping, and walking about (thin walls and a grandmother who got into her work make for an interesting combination). But I can relate to the young girl who wants a place of her own in The Train Home because, it was a small house, and frankly as a teen, sleeping would have been better than presents (but not better than grandma’s cooking), so I really wished I had my own, quiet, place. So when I read Dan-Ah Kim’s story, I felt like the girl was almost me.
Oh, I did not imagine taking a train around the world, into the ocean or to space, but I did read and hideaway when and where I could. The imagination of the little girl equaled mine own about the same age. And for that, I really enjoyed this book. And sure, me the adult knew that our narrator would know that there is no place like home, but the child reader will wonder where will the girl find her special place.
However, no matter how good the text is/was, it was the authors illustrations that really made the book for me. They are boldly colored, details all over and busy busy! They are rich and thoughtful, magical, and whimsical. The realistic elements help allow the fantasy elements to come through sharply. They are needed to be slowly enjoyed, and a second reading to capture the art is well worth it.