Rambunctious YA educational entertainment that reimagines the American Revolution as a time-travel escapade.



From the Saving America series , Vol. 1

In Schnabel’s YA debut, four kids go on an amazing time-travel adventure to foil a saboteur who’s trying to make sure that the United States never comes to be.

In the present day, four youngsters are enrolled in a peculiar Wisconsin “Revolutionary War reenactment camp,” where they’re forced to endure authentic re-creations of hardships that people faced during the American Revolution. Thirteen-year-old Kep Westguard and his younger brother, Max, are mainly there to win a monetary prize for “best historical skirmishing” so that Kep can attend a swim camp instead. Adolescent animal rights firebrand Tela has more enthusiasm for the Revolutionary War camp—and skill with firearms—but she refuses to wear fur or leather or eat meat. T.J., who’s African American, doesn’t like that the reenactors, like Kep, Max, and Tela, are disproportionately white, as many free people of color took part in the historical fighting. He’s also sure that the place is actually a hidden-camera reality TV production. Then camp authorities tell the four kids that they’re being groomed to be time voyagers to head off an incredible crisis. A rogue, adult time traveler named Fox, they say, aims to sabotage events on the key night of April 18, 1775, when the famed “midnight ride” of Paul Revere took place (as well as a similar ride by the lesser-known William Dawes). Without foreknowledge of approaching British troops, the Colonial uprising in New England will be crushed—and the United States will never be conceived. The four kids possess the proper DNA for time travel, so they’re America’s best hope to go back in time and carry out the crucial warnings themselves. A short particle-accelerator–assisted trip later, the kids are outside Boston in 1775, bewildered and facing a seemingly impossible challenge.

In this hybrid of YA historical classic Johnny Tremain (1943) and Michael Crichton’s popcorn-SF tale Timeline (1999), Schnabel sacrifices gee-whiz science-fictional awe in favor of semicomic bickering over whether time travel is real or not. She follows this with cliffhanger after cliffhanger as the kids eventually realize that their anachronistic adventure is actually happening. The author particularly scores points by focusing on some somewhat lesser-known players of the Revolutionary War, such as British Army Gen. Thomas Gage, the poet Phillis Wheatley, and black Freemason Prince Hall. More familiar figures, such as George Washington and Revere, barely have walk-ons, but John Hancock and John Adams do take part, with the former amusingly portrayed as a brave but rather clueless figure. Perhaps most strikingly, the novel has its young characters argue over whether the United States is worth saving given that its birth guarantees a continuation of slavery—as well as animal abuse, Tela points out. This move certainly takes the story out of Esther Forbes territory, and young readers may find that this discussion makes the American Revolution more relatable. There are a few loose ends at the story’s conclusion, especially regarding the rather weakly defined villains, which leaves open the possibility of a sequel.

Rambunctious YA educational entertainment that reimagines the American Revolution as a time-travel escapade.

Pub Date: Oct. 22, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-73386-810-5

Page Count: 296

Publisher: Wonder Jumps Press

Review Posted Online: Feb. 20, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2020

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A bit of envelope-pushing freshens up the formula.


In honor of its 25th anniversary, a Disney Halloween horror/comedy film gets a sequel to go with its original novelization.

Three Salem witches hanged in 1693 for stealing a child’s life force are revived in 1993 when 16-year-old new kid Max completes a spell by lighting a magical candle (which has to be kindled by a virgin to work). Max and dazzling, popular classmate Allison have to keep said witches at bay until dawn to save all of the local children from a similar fate. Fast-forward to 2018: Poppy, daughter of Max and Allison, inadvertently works a spell that sends her parents and an aunt to hell in exchange for the gleeful witches. With help from her best friend, Travis, and classmate Isabella, on whom she has a major crush, Poppy has only hours to keep the weird sisters from working more evil. The witches, each daffier than the last, supply most of the comedy as well as plenty of menace but end up back in the infernal regions. There’s also a talking cat, a talking dog, a gaggle of costumed heroines, and an oblique reference to a certain beloved Halloween movie. Traditional Disney wholesomeness is spiced, not soured, by occasional innuendo and a big twist in the sequel. Poppy and her family are white, while Travis and Isabella are both African-American.

A bit of envelope-pushing freshens up the formula. (Fantasy. 10-15)

Pub Date: July 10, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-368-02003-9

Page Count: 528

Publisher: Freeform/Disney

Review Posted Online: June 17, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2018

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A trilogy opener both rich and strange, if heavy at the front end.


From the Peculiar Children series , Vol. 1

Riggs spins a gothic tale of strangely gifted children and the monsters that pursue them from a set of eerie, old trick photographs.

The brutal murder of his grandfather and a glimpse of a man with a mouth full of tentacles prompts months of nightmares and psychotherapy for 15-year-old Jacob, followed by a visit to a remote Welsh island where, his grandfather had always claimed, there lived children who could fly, lift boulders and display like weird abilities. The stories turn out to be true—but Jacob discovers that he has unwittingly exposed the sheltered “peculiar spirits” (of which he turns out to be one) and their werefalcon protector to a murderous hollowgast and its shape-changing servant wight. The interspersed photographs—gathered at flea markets and from collectors—nearly all seem to have been created in the late 19th or early 20th centuries and generally feature stone-faced figures, mostly children, in inscrutable costumes and situations. They are seen floating in the air, posing with a disreputable-looking Santa, covered in bees, dressed in rags and kneeling on a bomb, among other surreal images. Though Jacob’s overdeveloped back story gives the tale a slow start, the pictures add an eldritch element from the early going, and along with creepy bad guys, the author tucks in suspenseful chases and splashes of gore as he goes. He also whirls a major storm, flying bullets and a time loop into a wild climax that leaves Jacob poised for the sequel.

A trilogy opener both rich and strange, if heavy at the front end. (Horror/fantasy. 12-14)

Pub Date: June 7, 2011

ISBN: 978-1-59474-476-1

Page Count: 234

Publisher: Quirk Books

Review Posted Online: March 31, 2014

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