Kate Shelley and the Midnight Express

From the Series On My Own History

  • Interest Level: Grade 2 - Grade 4
  • Reading Level: Grade 3

Kate stared at the rickety wooden bridge. There were boards loose on its narrow walkway. There was no railing to hold on to. She was afraid to cross this bridge even in daylight. But she had to cross it now. She had to get to the train station in time to stop the midnight express. When a heavy storm destroyed the bridge over Honey Creek, near Kate Shelley’s home in Moingona, Iowa, fifteen-year-old Kate bravely rushed out into the storm, saving the lives of two men and preventing hundreds of other lives from being lost. This is the true story of a young girl’s resourcefulness and courage in the face of great danger.

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Interest Level Grade 2 - Grade 4
Reading Level Grade 3
Genre Social Studies
Category 5 Kinds of Nonfiction, 5KN: Narrative Nonfiction
Copyright 1990
Publisher Lerner Publishing Group
Brand On My Own Books
Imprint First Avenue Editions ™
Language English
Number of Pages 48
Publication Date 1990-08-01
Reading Counts! Level 3.3
Text Type Narrative Nonfiction
BISACS JNF007020, JNF051160, JNF057050
Dewey 921
Graphics Full-color illustrations
Dimensions 5.875 x 8.5
Lexile 570
Guided Reading Level M
ATOS Reading Level 3.3
Accelerated Reader® Quiz 6005
Accelerated Reader® Points 0.5
Features Author/Illustrator note, Awards, Bibliography/further reading, Reviewed, Teaching Guides, and eSource

Illustrator: Karen Ritz

Lerner eSource™ offers free digital teaching and learning resources, including Common Core State Standards (CCSS) teaching guides. These guides, created by classroom teachers, offer short lessons and writing exercises that give students specific instruction and practice using Common Core skills and strategies. Lerner eSource also provides additional resources including online activities, downloadable/printable graphic organizers, and additional educational materials that would also support Common Core instruction. Download, share, pin, print, and save as many of these free resources as you like!

On My Own History

With striking, full-page illustrations, real and fictionalized characters, and stories featuring events that really happened, these books capture readers’ interest and imagination. View available downloads →


  • National Endowment for the Humanities Nonfiction Booklist for Young Readers, Winner, 2016
  • Reading Rainbow® Book, Winner, 1990
  • NCSS/CBC Notable Social Studies Trade Book for Young People, Winner, 1990



“Based on a true incident, this story recounts the heroic action of. . . a nineteenth-century Midwestern girl who saved an express train from disaster. . . A substantive adventure for newly independent readers.”


“The story’s factual basis makes it all the more appealing, and Ritz’s charcoal-and-wash drawings evoke the setting and imbue personalities with lots of character. A substantive adventure for newly independent readers.”

The Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books

“Watercolor and charcoal illustrations are strong and stormy, with enough dignity to make the book appealing to older reluctant readers.”
The Bulletin of the Center for Children’s Books