With help from a mysterious professor, three intrepid children travel back in time and then must figure out how to get home.
In this first installment of the Snipesville Chronicles, Laing (Look Ahead, Look Back, 2012) introduces three plucky children who accidentally stumble across the ability to travel back in time. Hannah Dias and her brother, Alex, have just moved from San Francisco to the sleepy town of Snipesville, Georgia, and Hannah especially is bored by her new surroundings. On their first day at a new summer camp, they meet Brandon, a young, nerdy African-American kid interested in World War II history. When the three encounter a mysterious professor, they suddenly find themselves in WWII–era London during the Blitz. With occasional help from the professor, who appears to guide them, Hannah, Alex, and Brandon must find a lost boy named George Braithwaite before they can return home; in the meantime, they must quickly adjust to their new surroundings. Laing, herself a history professor, crafts an endearing, clever story that remains coherent despite the perils of a time-travel plot. Her keen eye for historical detail of the period and the struggles the kids face (particularly Brandon) helps bring her setting vividly to life. Moreover, the lessons they learn and the dangers they face ring true as the kids slowly get a sense of life’s difficulties in the era. There are a few instances where dialogue and characterization fall a bit flat; for instance, sulky teenage Hannah has a few too many lines like “Why don’t you mind your own stupid business?” that feel a little canned. Nevertheless, the story’s charms will draw readers in and keep them engrossed until the very end, and the tightly structured narrative ensures that the pieces of the mystery come together well and that each twist feels plausible. This being the first of a series, let’s hope the next installments continue to infuse historical fiction with the same sense of joy and wonder.
A clever and charming time-travel adventure.