Can I Get There by Candlelight, by Jean Slaughter Doty

Can I Get There by Candlelight  by Jean Slaughter Doty, (1980, 112 pages), is a good time travel book pick for a horse-crazy tween girl. Unfortunately, I don’t think it would appeal to many other kids. Not a lot happens in this story, unless you count equine activities such as brushing the horse, feeding the horse, and a multitude of activities that involve fastening and unfastening straps around the horse. There will be more books of this vintage reviewed here soon, because I just discovered these lists on Goodreads (Children’s Time Travel Fiction of the 1970s, Children’s Time Travel Fiction of the 1980s, etc.) and I am all over them like pumpkin spice foods on the shelves of every grocery stores, this time of year. 🙂

The book starts out promisingly enough. Gail is looking forward to spending her summer living in the old house her family is renting, while they wait for their new house nearby to get finished being built. When Gail rides her horse, Candy, through an old gate that borders the property and then through some woods, she comes upon the backyards of some large estates and is transported back in time about 100 years. She befriends a girl her age from the past who also appreciates a pretty pony. The contrast between Gail’s jeans and sneakers versus Hilary’s dresses and lace up boots is fun, as are Hilary’s reactions to some of Gail’s modern vocabulary. Gail visits Hilary a few times but the visits do not create any problems for either one of them and so fails to create much suspense. (Spoiler alert: Hilary teaches Gail to ride side-saddle.) Nothing exciting happens until the very end, and then it occurs suddenly, without a believable lead up. I was hoping more mind bending time travel surprises would happen, but there were precious few. The book does have several lovely black, gray, and white watercolor pictures.

Trivia tidbit: The title of this book comes from a nursery rhyme, How Many Miles to Babylon, that 1800s children used to chant while playing a singing game, a sort of old timey Sharks and Minnows.

For more middle grade book reviews from a number of bloggers, follow links at Shannon Messenger’s blog.


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