This week marks the one year anniversary of my blog! Yay! You may notice the beautiful new banner artwork by my friend Harriet Wu. Isn’t she talented? Reading the 43 middle grade time travel books that I reviewed this year was really enjoyable. I thought readers of this blog might be interested to know which ones I liked best.
Clicking on the titles in this list will connect you to Amazon.com. (No, I don’t get any money if you buy a book via my blog. Should I sign up for that little deal?) Clicking on “full review” will link you to my old post on that book if you want to read more. The ten books are presented in no particular order. Hey, it was hard enough to pick ten, ranking them would be beyond me!
What’s in store for my blog’s second year? More middle grade book reviews, for sure. Although I will keep the “times two” part of my blog name, I am no longer going to attempt to find two time travel books that share a common theme. I had a lot of fun with that brain teaser, but it was becoming too time-consuming. I want to connect more with other readers and writers. Also, I plan to do a fair amount of shameless self-promotion of my own soon-to-be-self-published (I hope) middle grade time travel novel.
1. Charlotte Sometimes, by Penelope Farmer (1969, 174 pages). The mood this book creates is irresistible. Some of the action in the story takes place outside, and the natural world described perfectly reflects the melancholic mood of the story. In Charlotte Sometimes, Charlotte and Clare who are staying at the same boarding school, one in 1918, the other in 1963, find themselves in the other girl’s time. World War I is happening during Clare’s time in 1918, and I appreciated learning a little about what life was like for kids during that war. I love that Charlotte and Clare care about each other’s welfare and leave notes for one another. (Full review)
2. 11,000 Years Lost,by Peni R. Griffin (2004, 307 pages). I loved how the author richly imagined this period of pre-history, including the complex social dynamics in the group of Clovis people of Texas. In this story, 11-year old Esther is visiting the site of an archeological dig. She sees two visual layers–the present landscape superimposed on the ancient landscape. Then the present layer disappears and she is in the past. It sounds too simple, but I thought this type of time travel “portal” worked really well. Esther has to figure out how to survive in the tribe in which she finds herself. (Full review)
3. Power of Un, by Nancy Etchemendy (2000, 148 pages). This is a short-term time travel book in which the main character travels back in time for only a couple hours or days. Other short-term time travel books I’ve reviewed include 15 Minutes, 11 Birthdays, and Rewind. A Year without Autumn might also be included in this list. I don’t think this is my favorite in the group only because I read it first. I think this author does the best job of making the reader imagine what it would be like to go back just a little bit in time and change something you did. Surely, things would turn out better, right? (Full review)
4. Archer’s Quest, by Linda Sue Park (2006, 167 pages). I love the spare style of writing used by Ms. Park. The beginning of this story, in which Kevin is doing his homework in his room when ancient ruler and expert archer Koh Chu-Mong from Korea suddenly appears in his bedroom is hilarious. It’s always fun when a kid from our modern time gets to be a guide to a visitor from the past. But it wasn’t just a funny book. As Kevin helps Chu-Mong navigate the 21st century, Chu-Mong teaches Kevin to increase his confidence and self-knowledge. (Full review)
5. Book of Story Beginnings, by Kristin Kladstrup (2006, 360 pages). I loved the unique plot of this book. Lucy and Oscar- Lucy’s formerly dead Great-Uncle who has time-traveled to her present, go on a magical and dangerous journey. They discover the story beginnings they jotted down in a shared notebook have come alive and the two are in the middle of the stories. They meet bizarre kings and queens. Certain characters get turned into animals. When this happens their shock is palpable. Lucy and Oscar are a team that will do anything to save each other. (Full review)
6. Indian in the Cupboard, by Lynne Reid Banks (1980, 184 pages). For his birthday, Omri receives a small plastic Indian, and an old cabinet. He is shocked to learn if he puts the figure in the cabinet it comes to life, while remaining just a few inches high. This book actually has so little time travel in it I hesitated to include it in this list. The premise of this book is really If you were a kid and had a tiny person to take care of how would you keep him/her safe? Hidden? This book is so well-written I could visualize the whole story as if I were in the same room with the characters. (Full review)
7. Bridge of Time, by Lewis Buzbee (2012, 290 pages). I appreciated the friendship between main characters eighth graders Joan and Lee who live in San Francisco. They go on a boring field trip. They doze off, and when they awake it’s 1864. They meet a man who turns out to be a young Mark Twain. He keeps them safe in San Fran which for some people is a very dangerous city at that time I enjoyed the strong role that place, in this book San Francisco, played in the story. It was a suspenseful story, and I learned about the history of racism toward Chinese people in San Francisco. Joan and lee are dealing with some family issues that have nothing to do with time travel and that added depth to the story. (Full review)
8. Back in Time with Benjamin Franklin, A Qwerty Stevens Adventure, by Dan Gutman (2005, 182 pages). I find all the books I read by Gutman to be accessible and fun. In this story, there is the humor of Ben coming to our present time and two boys, Qwerty and Joey, having to keep him out of trouble. In addition, the two boys travel back to Philadelphia in July 1776 and have to look like they fit in. There is a villain who is trying to keep the Declaration of Independence from being signed who must be stopped. It was particularly fun to read Benjamin Franklinstein Lives in conjunction with this book. (Full review)
9. Jason’s Miracle: A Hanukkah Story,by Beryl Lieff Benderly (2000, 114 pages). I didn’t expect to love this book by a (relatively) unknown fiction writer as much as I did. In this tale, 12-year old Jason goes back thousands of years to join the Maccabee army who are fighting the ruling Syrians. Jason doesn’t actually handle weapons, but he helps in other ways, including clever spying on the enemy, and doing math problems. The freedom of Jewish people to worship as they choose is at stake. It was so much fun to see the other soldiers’ fascination with objects we take for granted, such as a flashlight or banana. (Full review)
10. Switching Well, by Peni R. Griffin (1993, 218 pages). Two twelve-year-old girls, one from 1891, the other from 1991, think that their lives are lacking in some ways and that they might be happier in another time period. They switch places! I love that the author follows both girls as they try to adapt to the new centuries in which they find themselves. The book shows positive and negative aspects of both eras, and would be great for sparking discussion with kids about how society has changed in the last 100 years. (Full review)