It’s present-day July Fourth in Philadelphia, and Hannah Sinclair is bored. Her grandmother and her uncle love Revolutionary War history; every Independence Day, they participate in re-enactments at City Tavern. Her grandma is especially proud of an 18th-century recipe book once owned by Mary Newport, who had a pastry shop in colonial Philly. After Hannah finds a coded message in the book, along with a doodle seemingly in her own handwriting, she finds herself back in time at the first celebration of Independence Day: July Fourth, 1777. Luckily, she’s in period garb for the re-enactment, but there’s much more for her to learn. With exceedingly great-grandmother Lydia as her guide, she’s soon baking pastries for members of Congress. But when she overhears a Tory scheme to kidnap them and end the war in Britain’s favor, it’s up to Hannah and her new friends to keep history from changing. The trope of a sullen youngster learning to appreciate history via time travel isn’t a new one, but Spiers makes things interesting by delving into historical complexity; for instance, the Newports are Quakers, pacifists who don’t take sides in the war. That’s not good enough for some Patriots, who take a with-us-or-against-us attitude, so the pastry shop’s windows are broken by rock-throwing rowdies for the crime of being open on the festive day. Hannah, who didn’t pay much attention in history class, sees things in black and white—Americans good, British bad—and struggles to understand the unexpected shades of gray. For instance, once she learns Benedict Arnold is attending the banquet, she’s sure he’s the one who will betray Congress to the British, since he’s now synonymous with “traitor.” Spiers bases many of her characters on historical figures—Mary and Lydia are her own predecessors and were indeed Quakers—which nicely grounds things in reality.
Lively and informative history.