Review: On the Blue Comet by Rosemary Wells

Book Reviews


On the Blue Comet by Rosemary Wells

Publication Date: September 28, 2010

Candlewick Press

Complimentary Advance Review Copy

Listing Price: $16.99

Ages 10 & up

Overall Grade: 3 out of 5 stars (***)



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.

 Synopsis Courtesy of


On the Blue Comet had an interesting premise: a boy able to escape into a parallel dimension in relation to a Lionel train set during 1929. I’m very fond of trains in general, and the world always needs more literature regarding these iron and steel marvels. I found that it was a lot of premise, and not a lot of plot.

Oscar’s voice was stilted and it felt like the author herself were speaking in a voice she “thought” children spoke. Every time a new character was presented to the reader and protagonist, they told their entire life story and motivation to Oscar, and it seemed like the author took a shortcut by telling the reader the information she wanted to get across, instead of taking the time to develop the new characters in smoother, more cohesive ways.

The first 80-100 pages were very slow in accordance to plot and character development. After the bank robbery it began to pick up, and one thing I found clever was the way the author introduced historic figures in a way that concealed their true identity, but older readers would know who she was talking about.

Dutch, the man Oscar meets on the first train to California, eventually becomes a great star of  films, everyone in Hollywood recognizing who he was by his cowboy hat and tall height alone. My interpretation is Ronald Reagan, before he became involved in politics.

The same thing with another cameo in the book, Mr. H., also known as Alfred Hitchcock, the famous film director with the basset-hound face.

On the Blue Comet featured very little of the Blue Comet train itself, but I did appreciate the little known facts about Lionel trains and life during the Great Depression (wealthy people had telephone rooms!) and it was a pleasant read despite the minor bumps in the plot and character development.


Note: This book was a complimentary Advance Review Copy courtesy of Candlewick Press.

 Publication Date: September 28, 2010.

4 thoughts on “Review: On the Blue Comet by Rosemary Wells

  1. Writing in a child’s POV is more difficult that it appears, isn’t it? I thought Sonya Hartnett did a good job in Surrender.
    I like the idea of hidden historical figures too. It’s satisfying to pick up the subtle clues in a book.

  2. I loved this book so much (especially the time travel part of if), I am in hopes that they make a movie out of it. I know my grandsons would like it too.

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