I thoroughly enjoyed the main character in The Accidental Time Traveller, by Janis Mackay, (2013, 208 pages). I appreciated Saul because he seems like such an average boy. He doesn’t particularly like reading, he’s not always nice, he’s not very patient, and he spends an inordinate amount of time thinking about what he wants for Christmas. (Of course, by the end he has grown some, and that’s okay, too.)
Saul is on his way to the corner shop on a seemingly ordinary day, when a girl appears suddenly in the middle of the road. She does not understand traffic or the things she sees in shops, and she’s wearing a long dress with ruffled sleeves. Her name is Agatha Black.
Agatha Black is from 1813, (actually 1812) and Saul needs to find a way to get her back to her time. With help from his buddies Will and Robbie, he tries to figure out how to make time travel happen.
This face-paced, time-traveling adventure from Janis Mackay (author of the Magnus Fin books) is full of funny misunderstandings and gripping action.
The book is set in Scotland. This was refreshing. I believe it is the first time travel book I’ve reviewed from that country. So there were several peculiar-to-me words, but they didn’t interfere with my understanding of the book.
Saul has to make Agatha able to pass in the present without drawing attention to herself, until they can figure out how to return her to her time. He decides the easiest way to do this is to disguise her as a boy. Also, he has to bring her up to speed on modern ways, and quickly. Agatha is an eager, if perhaps sometimes overly enthusiastic student which makes for a lot of funny scenes. I liked how Agatha was tough and self-sufficient, although her character was not quite as believable as Saul as she was rather saintly, never complaining about anything.
There is present the classic tension of time travel books as to whether the person who has time traveled will be able to get back to their own time. There is also the tension of a bully who has long picked on Saul, always menacing there in the background. I really couldn’t predict if/how these problems would be resolved.
There are other aspects to admire about this book as well, namely how the author addressed issues re family and friends. Saul’s family is working class, and he is sometimes jealous of his richer friend, Will. In addition, Saul and his buddies have an interaction for the first time with people that live in a much poorer community about which they have many prejudices. This is all handled in a way that seems very believable and gives the reader food for thought.
Several Marvelous Middle Grade Monday book reviews by other bloggers can be found at Shannon Messenger’s blog.