History's Mysteries

The Chocolate Train Wreck

Children - Grade 4th-6th
78 Pages
Reviewed on 05/18/2020
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Author Biography

Best-selling, award-winning author, Donna L Martin, has been writing since she was eight years old. She is a 4th Degree Black Belt in TaeKwonDo by day and a ‘ninja’ writer of flash fiction, children’s picture books, chapter books, young adult novels and inspirational essays by night. Donna is a BOOK NOOK REVIEWS host providing the latest book reviews on all genres of children’s books, and the host of WRITERLY WISDOM, a resource series for writers. Donna is a member of the Society of Children’s Book Writers & Illustrators and Children’s Book Insider. She is a lover of dark chocolate, going to the beach and adding to her growing book collection.

    Book Review

Reviewed by Jack Magnus for Readers' Favorite

History’s Mysteries: The Chocolate Train Wreck is a historical adventure mystery for children, grades 4-6 written by Donna L. Martin and illustrated by Estella Hickman and Donna L. Martin. It was late September in Hamilton, New York where Abigail and her new best friend, Nathan, lived. Abigail was ready to carve her Jack-o-lantern; she already had the designs in her imagination, and Nathan was coming over with his pumpkin. They suddenly heard a train’s whistle blast, the squealing of emergency brakes, and a loud noise that sounded like wood being smashed. Abigail’s dad went to find out what happened and told the kids to stay put -- of course they just couldn’t. The sight that met their eyes was quite unbelievable. There was a train in Mr. Johnson’s vegetable garden. What was even more amazing was the cargo -- tons and tons of chocolate: candy bars, syrup, baking chips, and cocoa powder. But how did that train get there? Was it sabotage? Who was to blame? The FBI and police were asking questions, and Abigail and Nathan figured this was exactly the kind of case the Hardy Boys and Nancy Drew would love to solve.

Donna L Martin’s The Chocolate Train Wreck features a real-life mystery, and many of the people readers meet in this story were actually there and when the Chocolate Train Wreck shook up the residents of Hamilton and set them on a steady diet of Tollhouse cookies. Abigail, her papa, and best friend, Nathan, are fictional, but they do a grand job of witnessing the event and getting involved in the investigation afterward. I loved seeing how Abigail begins the healing process after losing her Nana, writing to her in her journal and sharing things about her with Nathan, and watching as the two friends decide to take on the job of catching the person(s) responsible for the wreck is grand fun. Even more impressive than their sleuthing prowess is their growing realization that they really don’t want to get anyone in trouble and being a Hardy Boy or a Nancy Drew may not be all they thought it was.

The author includes a historical account of the crash, Discussion Questions, a CTW Word Search puzzle, a list of interesting facts, coloring page and the recipe for Nana’s famous chocolate chip cookies. She also includes archival photos of the crashed train, including those open cars filled with chocolate goodies and a list of suggested readings. This series makes history fun and accessible for young readers, and The Chocolate Train Wreck is a consummate example. It is most highly recommended.

Joel R. Dennstedt

When approaching the children’s book, History’s Mysteries: The Chocolate Train Wreck by Donna L. Martin, one should not be misled by her description invoking time travel. There is no time travel here. The events described are based on true events from the past, and that does lend added interest to the tale. But if you and your child are expecting adventurous time-hopping, think again. That said, this story about a train wreck that caused copious amounts of chocolate candy to rain down on the village of Hamilton, NY in 1955 offers appealingly cute characters, some truly mysterious situations, and a secret ingredient when making Grandma’s tasty chocolate chip cookies. With a warning not to tell the boys. (They are unable to keep such secrets.)

In The Chocolate Train Wreck, Donna L. Martin offers up a speculative tale regarding this strange historical event as witnessed through the eyes of a young girl, Abigail, and her best friend, Nathan. Abigail documents her local adventures by way of letters she writes to her deceased grandmother – including all the ways she tries (and sometimes fails) to keep her Grandma’s guiding words alive. Like not telling secrets to the boys. (She fails.) Abigail is a would-be Nancy Drew who, with Nathan, attempts to solve the case of The Chocolate Train Wreck. Included are some rather cool sketches provided by Amelia Earmouse (apparently the aforementioned Time Traveler who first “discovered” this historical event.) The book concludes with some additional activities like discussion questions, a word game, some actual photos, and suggested reading. Not to mention a cookie recipe. All fun for the young.

Debby E

What a fun book for grade school children to read! The mystery is real, based on an actual train wreck in Hamilton, NY in 1955. The townspeople were encouraged to help themselves to the chocolate baking chips and candy bars before everything melted. "The Chocolate Train Wreck" takes the reader back to 1955, to try along with Abigail, the young detective, to solve the mystery of who caused the wreck. At the end of the story, the reader can play games, read historical information about the actual train wreck, color pictures, and even bake your own cookies using Nana's secret ingredient!