That Night's Train
Written by Ahmad Akbarpour
Illustrated by Isabelle Arsenault
Translated by Majid Saghafi
Publication Date October 01, 2012
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 a very talented Quebec illustrator who has won an impressive number of awards and has achieved international recognition. She has illustrated Migrant by Maxine Trottier, a New York Times Best Illustrated Book and a finalist for the Governor General’s Award; Virginia Wolf by Kyo Maclear, winner of the Governor General’s Award; Le coeur de monsieur Gauguin by Marie-Danielle Croteau, winner of the Governor General’s Award; and My Letter to the World and Other Poems by Emily Dickinson, a finalist for the Governor General’s Award. She has also illustrated Once Upon a Northern Night by Jean Pendziwol and Jane, the Fox and Me by Fanny Britt, forthcoming from Groundwood. Isabelle has won the Grand Prix for illustration (Magazines du Québec) for six years running. She lives with her family in Montreal.
"That Night's Train is a satisfying story that weaves together fiction and reality in a unique way." CM
"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." Smithsonian
"... perfect... a story from life experiences." Library Media Connection