It’s been a little while since I’ve shared one of my book review posts on the blog, and I do have one with all my “mini reviews” coming up soon, but I first wanted to share with you a book review of a different kind as it’s something a little bit special! And this is why…
Take a close look at that illustration, look up above the little girl’s head – yep, that’s a Thomas the Baker sign! My dad recently passed this book over to me, telling me I would enjoy it, not only for the story, but because Thomas the Baker (ie. our family business) has a mention in it. The story of the book is based very locally to me, strongly featuring the York Railway Museum, and aimed towards getting children and young people more interested in the history of the York railways, as well as being a lovely story for any generation to read. So I thought I’d do a little review of it – as you know, I love supporting new and independent brands on my blog, and a fabulous local writer will make my list any day!
The story follows a young girl, Liana, whose father works at the York Railway Museum and who feels a little bit like an outsider amongst people around her. Due to her father’s busy life at work, she often spends time alone in the museum, exploring the different trains housed there and the exhibits, but in particular likes to spend time with her favourite locomotive, a damaged old piece called Coppernob.
Imagine her surprise when one day she tugs on a lever in Coppernob’s signal box and she is hurled back in time to Coppernob’s heyday where she meets the original driver and his family over in Barrow in Furness. The trip back in time is so vivid, with a bit of a shock as she arrives. It becomes apparent that during her journey, she must solve a problem that she has been sent back to complete before returning to her own time. Finally she arrives home, and later meets Joe, with whom she accidentally makes the trip back to Barrow again via Coppernob’s old signal box, although to a slightly different time period, meeting the same family but at a different stage in their lives. We soon realise that not only do they have to help out the people during that time, but that those people can help solve the issue that Liana and Joe are facing in the modern day: the people of Barrow want Coppernob back, but York wants to keep the old train.
It was pretty exciting to see the mention of Thomas the Baker’s gingerbread persons in the book, especially as they travel back in time too! What I really loved about the book is the connections to York as I know it – not only the mentions of Thomas the Baker, but also the many little streets around the city, names I know and buildings I’ve passed so many times. I’m sure for any children who read it the connections will just make it seem all the more real and bring the story to life. Not only that, but the illustrations throughout are also fantastic, and I couldn’t help but include a couple in this post.
Denny was also kind enough to send me a bit more info about how she wrote the book. As a teacher in Haxby for primary aged children, she took her class on a trip to the Railway Museum where she took notes in an old exercise book based on one particular train, Coppernob, thanks to her inquisitive class writing on their worksheets that they wanted to know more about why she was covered in holes, encouraging her to teach them in her unique “storytelling” way how this had happened. The book of notes sat in a cupboard for several years while Denny trained teachers and taught psychology at York University until a car accident put her out of action for a while and gave her a chance to give the story life once more.
Time for Coppernob by Denny Mallows is available to buy at the Cumbrian Railways Association website, and let’s hope it will soon be available in the York National Railway Museum since the whole story focuses around it!