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A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this book.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Kenneth Oppel'sThe Boundless is an exciting story targeted at the middle grade set, but it can be enjoyed by readers well into their teens. There's plenty of adventure for all ages aboard this 900-car train and a fair amount of danger as well. It mostly involves jumping moving railroad cars and getting chased by baddies with knives and guns. Expect some deaths, a few sad and a couple gory with heads left on spikes. Readers will learn quite a bit about the time period just after the Canadian Pacific Railroad was built -- an era that included lots of smoking and drinking. Will, a teen, drinks a little, too. Mostly he's a good kid, though, with some tough decisions to make about honesty and loyalty. Language stays pretty mild -- nothing beyond "asses." Read by Nick Podehl in the audiobook version, which the American Library Association named a 2015 Notable Children's Recording.
- Parents say
- Kids say
What's the story?
After Will and his father, a railroad worker, save a rail baron in an avalanche, Will's father moves swiftly up in the world. In just a few years he's become a prominent member of the Canadian Pacific Railway company. So prominent, he's to help conduct the Boundless -- a massive train of more than 900 cars -- in its first voyage across Canada. The Boundless carries four classes of passengers, loads of freight, a whole circus, and the mysterious funeral car the late rail baron. Will's father and one guard have the only key to the treasures inside the opulent carriage that has a steady electric current running through it for good measure. A number of the train's brakemen are sure the car contains a priceless golden spike. After all their sacrifices building the railroad they think they should have it, and are willing to kill the one guard for the key. When poor Will catches them in the act, he finds the key in the chaos and just manages to escape with his life, barely catching up with the train. Now he's on the caboose, with miles of moving train and vengeful brakemen between him and his father. Luckily he knows someone in the circus cars that may help him, but can he trust them?
Is it any good?
There's so much to love about THE BOUNDLESS, it's hard to know where to begin. Probably at the unbelievable setting of a train more than 900 cars long heading across Canada. Even without evil brakemen chasing Will from caboose to first class, it's so exciting the way author Kenneth Oppel stes up the quirky circus cars, the chaos of colonist class, the Wild West-style bawdiness of third class, the busy mail cars, and even an open-air shooting gallery. Each part of the train is a new discovery, leading to the biggest mystery of all: the rail baron's funeral car. What could be in there?
Oh, and all around there are Sasquatch. And talk of a pretty creepy hag in the muskeg -- watch out. And avalanches and flooding on the tracks. So no, readers will not have a moment's peace to truly enjoy the amazing train they're on, but what a ride.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about class differences of the time. What did Will see moving from the caboose forward to colonist, third, second, and first class cars? Who inhabited each? What hints did you have about the kind of lives they lead off the train?
This is clearly an adventure with some history behind it, but there are fantasy elements as well. What drew you to this book? Would you read more by this author?
Talk about Mr. Dorian, the head of the circus. What motivates him the most? What are his dreams for the circus? DoesMaren trust him?
- Author: Kenneth Oppel
- Genre: Adventure
- Topics: Magic and Fantasy, Adventures, History, Monsters, Ghosts, and Vampires, Trains
- Book type: Fiction
- Publisher: Simon & Schuster
- Publication date: May 9, 2014
- Publisher's recommended age(s): 8 - 12
- Number of pages: 336
- Available on: Nook, Audiobook (unabridged), Hardback, iBooks, Kindle
- Award: ALA Best and Notable Books
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Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are created by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.