You could read this book because it has won a tonne of awards.
(It won the Governor General’s Award for Children’s Literature (Text), the Amelia Frances Howard-Gibbon Illustrator’s Award, the Elizabeth Mrazik-Cleaver Award and the Ruth Schwartz Award.)
You could read it because Paul Yee has a solid reputation for telling the stories of Chinese-Canadians with sensitivity and grace.
(One of the stories in 1989’s Tales from Gold Mountain also considers the Chinese railroad workers in the late-nineteenth century and the spirits left behind. More recently he has written Blood and Iron, a fictional diary of a fourteen-year-old boy who came to Canada in 1882 from China with his father to work on the railroad. There is a short video here, too, about this Scholastic Books publication.)
You could read it because you love stories about artists and the power of art to transform.
(Choon-yi was born with only one arm in South China. “The villagers soon discovered that Choon-yi’s one arm was no ordinary limb. When she held an ink brush, the pictures she painted looked as real as life. The flowers she colored seemed to give off fragrance. The animals she sketched seemed to breathe and move.”)
You could read Ghost Train as a ghost story, perhaps because you collect reading lists to indulge in the month of October, perhaps because you love ghost stories no matter what month of the year it is.
(Choon-yi’s father goes to North America to work on the railway and she, in time, follows him there, only to discover that the souls of many of the railroad workers who died in the construction project are trapped on the railway, “the sleek ribbon through the mountains, with jagged canyons yawning below”.)
You could read it to marvel at the haunting images of Harvey Chan‘s artwork.
(The story somehow manages to contain promise and a hint of celebration, despite the loss and grief related to the many unnecessary deaths caused by negligence/prejudice, but the paintings embody the loss and tragedy beautifully. The tones are rich, the shading is warm, and the images are emotive: sophisticated and sorrowful.)
You could read it because you are drawn to stories of brave and talented young women.
(“Sometimes the moaning was one voice. At other times it was a chorus of many. She could make no sense of the words, but pain oozed from the cries like blood flowing from a wound. Choon-yi hugged herself tight and repeated, ‘I am not afraid. I have hurt no one.'”)
You could read it because you believe that a thin veil separates the land of the living from the land of the dead, and that imagination and creativity can breathe life into the lifeless.
(“The red-gold rays of the setting sun cut through the incense, hitting the colors on the paper and setting them aglow. The inks and pigments began to swirl and dance amidst the dense smoke. But the darkness of night made it hard to see, and when Choon-yi ran up for a closer look, lo and behold! The train from her painting had swelled up like a balloon and come alive.”)
You could read this book because you were asked to choose from a stack of 71 books (all Groundwood and Anansi publications) to entertain your mom and your sister while the water boiled to cook the noodles for dinner.
Whatever your reason, Paul Yee’s Ghost Train will not disappoint. It is a beautiful and memorable tale.
Day 12 of 45: I finally had to admit, last night, that I’m not going to be able to fit in half of the books that I want to include in this event. This could, easily, have been a 90-day event, and I’m not sure that I’d’ve been bored with it even then. Nonetheless, I think my passion for this project is going to help me set a reading record for 2012, and I’m curious to see how all these pages add up in the coming month.