On a train trip with her grandmother, young Banafsheh meets a woman who reminds her of her dead mother. The woman is a teacher and a writer, and she promises she will call Banafsheh and come and tell her stories. Later, the teacher weaves the encounter into a story that she tells to the children in her classroom. The children are entranced by the story and imagine how it will turn out. Surely, they say, the teacher will call the little girl.
But the teacher never calls, though Banafsheh waits faithfully by the phone and refuses even to go out to play. Meanwhile, the teacher is disconcerted by her class's reaction, and she agonizes over how to end her story. As a writer, she feels that the story is more important than anything else, and that the ending must be exciting and eventful, no matter what. Perhaps Banafsheh will even have to become ill and die?
In the end, the teacher does visit Banafsheh, but finds that it is too little too late. Banafsheh is very angry with the teacher, and hurt. Finally, the teacher makes the biggest sacrifice she knows -- her manuscript -- in order to save the friendship.
This is a thought-provoking and emotionally powerful novel that raises intriguing and child-friendly questions about how real life and stories are interwoven, who owns stories, and whether they can ever truly disappear.
Ahmad Akbarpour is a novelist, short-story writer and author of children's books. He has won the Iranian National Book Award and was selected for the IBBY (International Board on Books for Young People) honor list in 2006. He is the author of the picture book Good Night, Commander, illustrated by Morteza Zahedi (Groundwood, 2010). He lives in Shiraz, Iran.
Isabelle Arsenault is an internationally renowned children’s book illustrator whose work has won many awards. Her books include Alpha, Virginia Wolf by Kyo Maclear, Cloth Lullaby by Amy Novesky, Once Upon a Northern Night by Jean E. Pendziwol and Migrant by Maxine Trottier.
Fanny Britt and Isabelle Arsenault first collaborated on the graphic novel Jane, the Fox and Me, winner of the Governor General’s Literary Award for Children’s Illustration (French) and the Joe Shuster Awards for Best Writer and Best Artist. It was also named a New York Times Best Illustrated Children’s Book.
Reading and writing both become their own characters in Akbarpour's sly prose, as he blends and blurs what might be real-life characters with their unreliable narrators to create quite the literary adventure.
... perfect... a story from life experiences.
That Night's Train is a satisfying story that weaves together fiction and reality in a unique way.