Parsley Sage, Rosemary & Time, by Jane Louise Curry

I’m continuing to enjoy reading and reviewing time travel books from the 70s, 80s and 90s Goodreads Children’s Time Travel Fiction lists. Some hold up well. Others, such as this one, do not. Parsley Sage, Rosemary & Time, by Jane Louise Curry (1975, 108 pages), might appeal to children fond of colonial history. I’ve never met one, but I’m told such kids exist. 🙂 It is set in Maine, so Maine residents possibly could find it interesting. But this book was too disjointed and dated for me.

Goodreads summary:

Ten-year-old Rosemary thinks the word cut into the marker stone in her aunt’s old herb garden in Maine should be spelled T-H-Y-M-E until she tastes a sprig of it, and finds everything but herself … stopped! Flies hang in mid-flight, a measuring worm in mid-reach. Not a leaf rustles. Before long Rosemary, a rather timid, proper child, is plunged into an extraordinary adventure– in the eighteenth century!

At the beginning of the book, prim Rosemary is sent to her aunt’s house for the summer and struggles to adjust to life with her freewheeling aunt. There are hints of magic afoot, for example, her aunt can make the twenty-year-old cat dance on its hind legs by saying an incantation. As described in the Goodreads summary, Rosemary discovers the magic herb that can freeze time. Shortly thereafter, she discovers a time travel portal in the garden that lands her in the 1700s. However, once she goes back in time, the themes about her adjustment to her aunt’s place, and the freezing of time are basically dropped. Having the power to freeze time–to make everyone freeze like a statue while only you retain the ability to walk around and marvel at it all–is a fun kind of time travel that has been explored to greater effect in a few other books. I was disappointed to only get glimpses of it in this novel.

The first person Rosemary encounters when she goes back in time is an old woman who has a magic cupboard. Then she meets a couple of Sokokis indians. They are depicted in what I think of as perhaps the third worst way native americans in kids’ fiction get stereotyped, that is, as noble and graceful, (after 1. evil, and 2. stupid), the girl leaping a “patch of briars like a young deer”. I will not wager a guess as to whether the depiction of the Sokokis, a subgroup of the Abenaki, is historically accurate overall. Third, Rosemary encounters another young girl whom she recognizes as a fellow time traveler from relatively modern times. Oh, and there’s also a time traveling toddler.

The old woman gets accused of witchcraft by some men in town, and the two girls try to save her from being caught and tried by them. An enslaved girl, who is the property of the town preacher, also tries to help. The enslaved girl is depicted as a nitwit, which rubbed me the wrong way. Despite the theme of a woman being accused of witchcraft and possibly sent to her death, the novel has a lighthearted tone. The ending of the book was somewhat clever, and I thought it the best aspect of the story.

Illustrations in a book are always a plus. This one has twelve fuzzy black and white drawings.

A magic garden as a time travel portal has captivated the imagination of generations of readers. However, it is done better in books such as Tom’s Midnight Garden (my review), and The Time Garden (my review).

For more middle grade book reviews, follow the links at Shannon Messenger’s Marvelous Middle Grade Monday post. Always in the Middle.

 

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