The two books reviewed in this post have a couple of things in common. The main character in both is a girl, and both girls travel through time via an elevator. I think an elevator as a time travel vehicle is a great idea. Elevators always make me a little nervous. When you’re riding on a car, train or bike you can see where you’re going. Not so in an elevator. While you’re in an elevator anything could happen in the outside world and you wouldn’t know it. Maybe even time travel magic?
Main characters Susan and Jenni both travel in time, but not far in space. Characters in many time travel stories travel to exotic locales which can make for an exciting story. But it’s fun to imagine time traveling right in your own neighborhood. Wouldn’t you love to see what happened on the very spot where your house is located? One big difference between the two books is Susan travels to the past, while Jenni travels to the future.
In Time at the Top, Edward Ormondroyd, (1963, 147 pages), Susan returns home in 1960 after a particularly lousy day at school, and goes to the top (7th) floor of her apartment building to look out the window and perhaps to clear her thoughts. Only this time, when she steps out of the elevator: zoiks! The carpet is different, the furniture is different, and the view out the window is completely different. She’s gone back to 1881, and she’s in the house that is where her apartment building stands in the present.
Two kids about her age,Victoria and Robert, live in the house with their mother. Their father died two years earlier. Susan can relate, as her mom died two years before. Victoria and Robert have a big problem: a creepy man is on the verge of marrying their mom. Susan knows her dad is probably worried sick not knowing where (or when) she is, but she feels she must stay and help Victoria and Robert.
I liked Susan’s clever, no-nonsense personality. I enjoyed how the three kids figured out some puzzling challenges together. My favorite part was when they were digging in the ground trying to find some buried treasure for some much needed cash flow. I would love to dig in the ground for valuable coins–hand me a shovel and I’m good to go. But Susan is 100% in love with the 19th century, which didn’t seem believable to me. Come on, you would at least miss TV, wouldn’t you? And Pop-tarts? I won’t give away the ending, but I will say that it also struck me as not quite believable, either.
There was a movie version of this made in 1999. How cool is it that the movie was made 36 years after the book was written! Fellow novelists, never give up hope that your story can make it to the big screen! Usually I feel loyal to a book I have enjoyed and don’t like it when they change the story for a film. So, I hope they didn’t change Time at the Top too much, because the story is a solidly fun time travel tale.
In A Year Without Autumn, Liz Kessler, (2011, 294 pages), Jenni’s stay at the condo her family rents the last week of summer vacation every year starts out ordinary. Her best friend Autumn’s family always vacations there the same week. But when Jenni knocks on the door of the condo where Autumn’s family always stays an old woman is there instead. Jenni is confused but decides Autumn must be in a different unit this year. Later, Jenni does find Autumn but it is Autumn a year in the future and she is shockingly changed. When Jenni returns to her unit, her mother is no longer pregnant. Instead, Jenni now has a baby sister who needs her diaper changed. The baby is sweet, but her previously happy family now has problems. Jenni figures out the elevator has taken her a year into the future!
Jenni goes back and forth between the present and the future a few times. She realizes she will need to alter something in the present if she does not want the awful future she has glimpsed to come true. I was on the edge of my seat waiting to see if she could pull it off. As a time travel plot, the way Jenni goes back and forth between the present and the future was unique and full of suspense.
Jenni meets someone else who time traveled in the elevator years ago. That person’s story makes for a nice subplot. A small complaint I had with the book was there was too much talk about how much Jenni liked Autumn. Enough already! We get that she’s your best friend. Also, it takes Jenni a little long to figure everything out. I feel the book would have been stronger if it was a bit shorter. But overall, it’s a very creative time travel story, and I like how important family and friendship are to the main characters.
Here’s what the author has to say about the book:
Next Post: Time Travel Way, Way Back:
11,000 Years Lost, by Penni R. Griffin, and
Dinosaur Habitat, by Helen Griffith