Product Review – The Train to Impossible Places by PG Bell

  • Product Review – The Train to Impossible Places by PG Bell

A fast and fresh fantasy adventure of worlds within worlds by PG Bell, published by Usborne...

At a glance

  • A fast and fresh fantasy adventure of worlds within worlds
  • Shortlisted for the Waterstones Children’s Book Prize, Branford Boase Award and Independent Bookshop Week Book Awards 2019
  • Selected for the Summer Reading Challenge 2019
  • Letter writing lesson plans based on the book

The author PG Bell has written a symbolic and multi-layered story involving a train that takes its passengers to protean and paradoxical spaces. It cleverly creates a separate universe but not dislocated from the world we inhabit.

It’s humorous, beguiling and a cocktail of creativity that doesn’t obey the laws of physics. I mean, how many trains do you know fuelled by bananas?

The story starts with a girl called Suzy Smith, who creeps downstairs in the dead of night to find a locomotive pelting through her house.

This is a magical travelling post office and delivery express for the Union of Impossible Places, servicing ocean-bottom shipwrecks and ghost pirates, Trollville and space.

Science-loving Suzy is swept on board by Wilmot Grunt, a bad-tempered troll and her world turns inside out and upside down when she’s asked to deliver a cursed and mysterious package to a formidable witch, Lady Crepuscula, at The Obsidian Tower.

But the package doesn’t want to be delivered.

So no spoilers, obviously, but this story is like a rollercoaster with anticipation, twists, turns, barrel rolls and brilliant plot propulsion. We tell children you can’t judge a book by its cover but with this one you can.

Beautifully illustrated by Flavia Sorrentino, this book is one to feed into Cressida Cowell’s Waterstones Children’s Laureate Reading Charter and for developing creativity and empathy.

Influenced by mythology and reminiscent of Dr Who and The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, this fizzing debut novel also has hints of Polar Express, The Chronicles of Narnia and The Wizard of Oz.

With surprises galore and a tangible atmosphere of excitement, this beautiful book features trolls, a talking snowglobe, magical creatures, deceitful villains, warrior statues, wormholes and negotiable gravity.

Also available to accompany the book comes a task-filled three-lesson resource pack that focuses on letter writing, with top tips and reading comprehension questions for fast-tracking skills and bolstering knowledge and understanding.

A sure-fire classroom classic and bedtime favourite, children will love hopping on board for a full-steam-ahead experience.

We don’t have to wait long for Suzy’s next adventure as The Great Brain Robbery comes out in October 2019. This time she travels deep under Trollville and sky high to new impossible places like Cloud Forge.

Can she deliver the goods and save the day? Jump on and find out more.

The Train to Impossible Places by PG Bell is priced at £6.99 from Usborne.


  • A pacey, gutsy, creative and dramatic story with delightful depth
  • Astounding adventure, wonderful humour and colourful characters
  • Full of heart, fun and fantastical ideas for word and world building
  • A journey through space, time and physics
  • Perfect as a class reader
  • Stunning artwork and illustration

Upgrade if…

You are looking to take your pupils on a magical journey in a fantasy adventure with a difference – a page-turner and first-class ride with twists and turns aplenty.

Reviewed by John Dabell

Pie Corbett