Want to know what it was like trying to set up a frontier town out in the wild west a hundred years ago?
It was hard. Very hard:
She lined them up and looked them over: Sunday clothes outgrown, hand-me-downs too big, bodies surviving on rabbit stew and grasshopper cake.
Cissy Sissney travels with her parents by train to Florence, where her father has bought a plot of land to build a grocery store:
Cissy turned her back on the train and looked around her.
Florence did not exist.
How could it? Nothing yet existed of the state which was to be north-west Oklahoma. It was a dream in the minds of fifty thousand hopefuls. The 168-acre plots which would one day be farms were still uncultivated scrubland, without farmhouses or corrals. Its towns were double plots of the same sun-baked land, their marker flags a different colour, maybe, but their grass the same parched prairie yellow.
The only thing that makes it possible to settle in Florence and build a town is the railroad. The train will bring goods and people in and take them out again. Without the train, Florence is just Nowhere in the middle of Nowhere, out in the desert.
So it is unfortunate that within days of their arrival, the hopeful new residents of Florence have made an enemy of the Chairman of the Red Rock Railroad Company:
'He says there will be no Florence Station on the Red Rock Railroad Line. He says it and he means it. From here on out ... the trains won't be stopping at Florence. Ever.'
They face a devastatingly difficult time. They must build their town and plant their crops, they must survive the first winter, and every single thing they use must be brought in by cart from the nearest township four hours away. It is clearly unsustainable. The people must either, somehow, persuade the train to stop at Florence, or give up and go elsewhere.
Pioneers are tough people. At least, the Florentines are. They plan to make the train stop at Florence, but it is not a simple task. As time goes by and their financial and moral resources fail, their actions become more and more desperate.
I loved this story. In my dreams I think I would have made rather a good pioneer myself, but I'm not sure I could ever be this tough. The suspense nearly killed me as I waited to discover whether the train would ever stop at Florence.
bec, girl, age 12, from sydney, Australia, on 21st September 2005. Rating: 6/10
I found this book hard to get into and at first a little boring but that might have been because I had read an absolutely briliant book before it. Everyone keeps saying it has heaps of romance in it but it hardly had any! However, I really liked Monday (or should I say Sunday) morning, and Herman the Morman. I thought it was funny how he sat solomnly in the line of fire to stop the train getting shot at. I found this interesting, but not riveting.
Hails, girl, age 10, from Christchurch, New Zealand, on 13th September 2005. Rating: 10/10
I think that Stop the train is an brilliant book and that Geraldine should write a sequal to it. Even though I missed some of it I still picked up on where we were easily. I was really annoyed when it finished but i'll eventually get over it. I enjoyed the different situations that they came to face. I would recommend this book for young adults.
Ailis, girl, age 11, from Christchurch, New Zealand, on 13th September 2005. Rating: 8/10
'Stop the train' is an action packed story set in the late 1800's.It's full of humor, romance, friendships and breathtaking and disasterous moments.When Sissy and her family arrive at Florence (a bare and deserted landscape, life doesn't seem so simple.Many others arrive ,like Honey , the Bodens , Hermin,Koookie ,the Magnussens and loads of others.They co-operate together and build a town with a school, a bakery and even a coffin shop! But then tragic news is told to the citizens of Florence,the train (or the RRR) is not coming to Florence to give them supplies so they try to survive on rabbits ,wild berries and rats. My favourite part is when the school teacher is getting married and a special guest arrives with an objection.I would rate this 9 1/2out of 10.Suitable for ages 9 and up.
If you want to buy Stop the Train by Geraldine McCaughrean and help readingmatters, please use these links
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Geraldine McCaughrean has written many, excellent books for children, vivid and dense with description. You might be interested to look at this one:
If you like children having adventures in a massive landscape, you could look at this story by Eva Ibbotson:
If you enjoy the description of pioneer life, I'm sure you will enjoy this classic series by Laura Ingalls Wilder, which I have not yet reviewed on this website but which has given me a lasting admiration for those who really tamed the wild west:
I don't often make links to adult books, but if you are an older reader and you are interested in the way the behaviour of the characters slips into near-anarchy as their hardships increase, you might be interested in this classic by William Golding: