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Lewis & Number One audio review
'Lewis & Number One' by Antony J Stowers and Adam Sykes is a children's book available as a spoken download audio CD and in printed book form. It tells the story of a young lad up in North East UK who goes on a fantastic adventure back in time, by the means of a time travel train to witness the opening of the Stockton and Darlington Railway in 1825 in order to beat his arch-enemy the school swot Johnathon Primm with a better mark in a history project. This is a brilliant story which takes the young reader on a funny, entertaining, colourful, imaginative, heart-warming and fascinating journey into events that changed the world forever. Lewis is the central young character in the book and No1 is the name often given to Locomotion No1, the world famous steam engine built by George Stephenson. We visit historical sites as they appear today, examine ecology and climate change issues in the world, untangle theories of time travel and learn how Stephenson and Pease pushed engineering beyond all imagination, propelling themselves into world history books and rocketing Britain and the world into the Industrial Revolution in 1825. There isn't a country on the planet that doesn't have a railway and they all lead back here to the S&D. Lewis and a time-travelling futuristic family from 2525 travel back in time, by means of a Time Travel Booking Agency (how else?) along with an ambitious news reporter to ride along. This is a great vehicle for teaching young people about historical characters, engineering, the politics, economics and human endeavour. We don't feel we're being given a history lesson because the humour, humanity and colour of Tony's writing carries us along. I laughed at times and had a lump in my throat at others. As someone involved heavily in the last few years in S&D heritage I thoroughly recommend it as an entertaining read but also a great start for young minds to set them on their way to learning more. Stephenson wrote in his diary at the time of the opening 'What we do today shall change the world forever'. He was a visionary but how was he to know that ten year old Lewis Lovatt would inadvertently travel back from our modern world to meet him? Go buy it. 10 out of 10. - Jay Tee, award-winning film maker.
Lewis and Number One. By Antony J Stowers
The world's first steam locomotive operated public railway opened between Stockton and Darlington in 1825. This tale is set 200 years later as local schoolboy Lewis Noble ponders an assignment on this historic event. In addition to looking back, the reader is projected fast forward to get a glimpse of what transportation systems might look like in 2525. Indeed, with the help of time travel from this future era, Lewis is inadvertently transported back to Stockton in 1825 where he's able to witness the proceedings first hand.
This is a delightful, feel good novel, reminiscent at times of the charming Mr Benn. To this extent, a story primarily aimed at a younger readership will also appeal to a wider audience. The aspect of travelling through the different time dimensions injects an element of fun to an important landmark in industrial history, whilst also serving as an educational tool. Those already blessed with a fair railway knowledge may even learn something new. I certainly did. Highly recommended. -
Jessi Adams, Eastfield
'This is a great book for any age, and you don’t need to be a train lover to enjoy it! I bought it for my son (who is a massive train geek) but read it myself before handing it over. It is a great, easy read, with lots of real history and charm mixed into the storyline. The opening of the Stockton to Darlington Railway on 27th September 1825 was a great occasion, and is an interesting read in any book - but “Lewis and No. 1” brings it to life in a delightful way, mixing fantasy with fact, giving it a twist that sparks the imagination and brings the characters to life.
Lewis was struggling for inspiration to do his homework, and was lucky enough to get involved in a magical solution which took him on a very special journey, during which he met some real historical characters - and found out not only about the past he was supposed to research, but about the future as well!
It normally takes me a long time to read a book, but not this one - I was truly engrossed in this from start to finish. My son loves it too! Recommended for all ages.'
Sally Canlin & her son Peter, aged 9, May 2021
REVIEW OF LEWIS AND NUMBER ONE by Antony J Stowers and Adam Sykes by Mark Marusic, Sydney poet and novelist
A highly original and engaging interweaving of three time periods – one in the past (1825), one in the near future (2025) and one in the distant future (2525 – “if man is still alive” – as the dystopian mid 60s folk-rock song ‘In the Year 2525’ put it – in this book, humankind is still alive – but in a very diminished environment).
The story entwines modern history, futuristic speculation, moral philosophy, science, technology and environmental concerns – navigated by a cast of interesting and engaging characters.
The device linking the three periods is time travel. What sets this story apart from many other stories using this device is the valuable philosophical insights into the notion of time travel. When the journalist Jack, a time traveller from 2525, having arrived in 1825 at the scene of the world’s first ever train journey, wishes to intervene, to nip in the bud the first stage of a long line of technological processes that would eventually lead to the Earth literally not having air fit to breath, the schoolboy Lewis, from 2025, offers Jack a wise reflection on time travel. He notes that whereas people from the past (George Stephenson, builder of the steam engine, being a case in point) can effect the future, the reverse can not be applied. “All we can do is learn from history”, he observes. Furthermore, “no one person can change the future, it’s up to all of us” – a valuable reminder that meaningful, sustainable change can only come from collective effort.
Noting the far lower presence of natural features in the Darlington of 2025 compared to that of 1825, comes the lament, “if only the people of 1825 had thought more about the people of 2025”. Kylie (the name derives from Australia – for a type of boomerang – speaking of travelling and returning!), when asked if her and her family ever travel to the future, replies that “the past is more reliable, and the future may be too shocking”).
The author provides adept descriptions of technical processes – whether real (e.g. the steam engine to create movement) or imaginary (e.g. time travel communication – ‘tech-specs’ equipment; transmogrifier - to blend in with people of the past).
Indeed real technology and possible future technology are all part of a continuum – a trajectory of developments going back to the steam engine – and even before.
An interesting character is the crone – she constantly mocks the feasibility of any new invention, adding “next thing they’ll be telling us” (that man can fly, etc, etc). The crone is a figure who has long appeared in a wide range of stories – in some cases wise and helpful, in some cases obstinate and obstructing. It is the latter in this story – though clearly she’s in no position to obstruct.
Imagination, ultimately, cannot be obstructed. As the narrator notes, “technology is great, and combined with imagination, you can create new worlds”. Indeed, for better and for worse.
This story has the wherewithal to attract interest in young (and old!) readers just about anywhere in the world – for every country in the world has been impacted by railways. Growing up in Parramatta (in western Sydney), I made numerous trips to Central Sydney – indeed on of the first ever railways in Australia – Sydney to Parramatta, opened in 1855. My home of the past 30 years in inner Sydney is close to the said railway line, and my imagination is evoked whenever I hear the steam whistle – old steam trains are often run on weekends for the people of the 21st century to experience (or re-experience) what travel on steam trains was like – in a sense, time travel – the closest we have for now!