Truly stellar time travel stories such as Saving Lucas Biggs by Marisa de los Santos and David Teague (2014, 279 pages), keep me from getting burned out on the genre. This book has everything going for it, in my opinion.
Summary from Goodreads:
When thirteen-year-old Margaret’s father is unfairly sentenced to death by the cruel Judge Biggs, she is determined to save him, even if it means using her family’s secret-and forbidden-ability to time travel. With the help of her best friend, Charlie, and his grandpa Josh, Margaret goes back to a time when Judge Biggs was a young boy and tries to prevent the chain of events that transformed him into a corrupt, jaded man.
This book has so much heart. If you have a friendship such as that enjoyed by Margaret and Charlie, count yourself lucky. They understand each other, they are always there for each other, they give one another the time and space each needs. They make each other laugh. In addition, Margaret and Charlie’s love for their families overflows, but is never saccharine.
Saving Lucas Biggs would be a good pick for MLK Day because one of the central characters is grappling with non-violence in a very personal way. The book alternates between chapters set in 2014 and chapters set in 1938. In the part of the book that is set in the past, the miners of the town of Victory go on strike for safer and fairer working conditions. The miners and their families are treated horribly by mine management. One of the miner leaders, Aristotle, insists on non-violent resistance. However, his son Luke sees the injustice and wants to take violent action. Acting peacefully to him feels like doing nothing. Should he just stand by and watch families get treated worse than dogs? Just as the miners stand up to the mine owners in 1938, Margaret’s father is a whistle-blower on the side of the people in 2014 against Victory Fuels. The power of group activism and the importance of the press in spreading the cause of a people also addressed. Two great themes in one story.
Margaret and Charlie’s mission is a matter of life or death which propels the story along. It is full of suspense. In the chapters set in the past, Josh and Luke, then thirteen-ish, go on numerous risky trips just to get food for the strikers. Will the miners win the strike? Margaret travels back in time to try to intervene in the course of events, but she only has about three days in which to travel before she sickens and maybe dies. It’s a very firm deadline. In the chapters set in modern times, Margaret’s dad is in real danger in prison from other inmates, not to mention his pending execution.
Margaret’s dad gives one of the best “explanations” I’ve read in a novel of how time travel is possible:
“Picture your average pair of workout pants…When you look at your item it appears to be all one piece, right? But actually it’s full of holes, exactly like…the fabric of the universe! Everything you see around you is at least as much not-there as it is there. The basic material of reality is all loosely connected and shifting, the tiny bits shimmering and scattering into holes that flash open and shut, blinking all around us.”
But of course, time travel is not easy. The adults familiar with the process warn Margaret that, “History resists”.
The only thing I didn’t like about this book, is at one point Charlie deliberately sticks a wire coat hanger into an outlet. What?! Postscript to kid readers: don’t try this at home!
For a bunch of new middle-grade book reviews, check out the Marvelous Middle-Grade Monday links on Shannon Messenger’s blog.