Once Was a Time, by Leila Sales, (2016, 324 pages) is enjoyable and timeless enough to become a classic. Refreshing in its simplicity, it is equal parts about friendship and the kind of time travel in which a character from the past comes to our time and has to adjust to our modern ways of living. Readers looking for a science fiction type time travel story with a twisty, turny plot may be disappointed, but a lot of kids, especially younger middle grade girls will love this book.
In the war-ravaged England of 1940, Charlotte Bromley is sure of only one thing: Kitty McLaughlin is her best friend in the whole world. But when Charlotte’s scientist father makes an astonishing discovery that the Germans will covet for themselves, Charlotte is faced with an impossible choice between danger and safety. Should she remain with her friend or journey to another time and place? Her split-second decision has huge consequences, and when she finds herself alone in the world, unsure of Kitty’s fate, she knows that somehow, some way, she must find her way back to her friend. Written in the spirit of classic time-travel tales, this book is an imaginative and heartfelt tribute to the unbreakable ties of friendship.
Charlotte finds herself in Sutton, Wisconsin, a place she had never even heard of, in the year of 2013. So many aspects of our modern lives that we take for granted are new to her. I love the fresh light her responses shine on our ways of living such as air conditioning, rock music, the internet, and of course mean girl games. Excerpt:
Dakota snapped. “We are playing Truth or Dare. Charlotte! Truth or Dare?” I bit my lip. Truth may have been the easier choice for Kianna, but it seemed to be the much harder choice for me. Truth, Charlotte: Why are you an orphan? Truth, Charlotte: How did you wind up in Sutton, Wisconsin? The Truth would do me no favors. “Dare,” I said. “Dare,” Dakota said. “I dare you to tell Jake Adler that he’s a big, fat baby.” “…why do I have to tell him that?” “Because those are the rules.”
Charlotte is a great character, and so is Jake. This story is warm, funny, and suspenseful.
Here are other time travel books with a focus on girls’ friendship:
For more middle grade book reviews, follow the links on Shannon Messenger’s blog.