Time travel loses its way in a maze of clichés, product placements and a slow-moving plot.
In modern Newport, R.I., fifth-grade twins Felix and Maisie are unhappy with all the changes in their lives. Their parents’ divorce has forced them to move to the servants’ quarters of Elm Medona, a huge historic mansion owned by distant relatives, far from the bustle of their former life in Manhattan. The twins discover the Treasure Chest, a room filled with artifacts that (eventually) transport them to the young Clara Barton’s farmhouse in 1836. It takes nearly 100 pages to get back in time, and once there, the drama slows even more. Meeting Clara and realizing some 175 years have passed seems pedestrian to these modern children. The first thing they want to do is to teach Clara to play baseball. There is little tension, even when they are uncertain as to how they might return to their own lives. Odd-seeming dropping of brand names and overly long descriptions of place further slow the narrative. While the children have an artifact to offer the young Clara, it’s hard to see why it matters and how it might change history.This homage to the Bobbs-Merrill Childhood of Famous Americans series of highly fictionalized biographies falls flat. (map, historical note) (Fiction. 8-12)