Book Review, Middle Grade Fiction

Sabotage on the Solar Express by MG Leonard & Sam Sedgman, illustrated by Elisa Paganelli

February 2022

With high-speed, heart-pounding danger; high-tech, environmentally-friendly science; and MacGyver-style engineering, the fifth instalment of the Adventures on Trains series is everything we hoped for and more.

We join Hal and his Uncle Nat on a three week adventure in Australia. Hal takes advantage of the stunning landscape to fill his sketchbook with every incredible detail. The pair have been invited by August Reza (from Kidnap on the California Comet) to be some of the first passengers on The Solar Express – winner of a futuristic train competition with a hydrogen-solar powered hybrid engine. Joining August is his daughter Marianne. Hal has mixed feelings about seeing Marianne again but at least the journey won’t be boring with her around!

The brains behind The Solar Express is Boaz Tudawali, a 14-year-old Aboriginal boy. He is determined to create the cleanest machine on the planet. His respect for the Aboriginal people and the Australian land is central to everything he does. If this trial run of his revolutionary train is a success, rail travel will be changed forever.

At first it seems they’re setting off on a train journey with no crime to solve. That soon changes as Hal discovers details others miss and the mystery becomes clear. Suddenly, what started as a special day out speeds towards a serious life or death situation. Hal, Uncle Nat and the others are in real danger if they don’t find the answers in time!

This story had me turning page after page, unable to put it down. I have no doubt that if Hal’s parents had any idea what was really happening on The Solar Express, they would never let him travel with Uncle Nat again! I can’t wait to share this book with all the Adventures on Trains fans in my life. The dream team of Sam Sedgman, MG Leonard and illustrator Elisa Paganelli have created a wonderful cast of characters and a fast-paced, thought-provoking mystery full of unending twists and turns that will leave readers guessing right until the final reveal.

Thank you to Macmillan Children’s Books & NetGalleyUK for this exciting book!

*Since writing this review, my son has arrived home and pinched my iPad. He’s already lost in the adventure and I don’t think we’ll hear from him until bedtime! We’ve also just received a review copy of Sam Sedgman’s upcoming book, Epic Adventures: Explore the World in 12 Amazing Train Journeys, from NetGalleyUK so there’s no question what we’ll be reading next!

Read my reviews of the other fantastic books in this series here:

Click on the covers below to find out more or purchase on-line from Amazon or

Books by Kate Heap:

Contemporary Children’s Literature: Years 5/6

Contemporary Children’s Literature: Years 3/4

Nonfiction: Years 5/6

Nonfiction: Years 3/4

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