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Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Time-Travel ebooks for MG/YA (Todd A. Fonseca, Kelly Grant, J.Y. Harris, Sarah Woodbury)


The Time Cavern Series
By Todd A. Fonseca
Ridan Publishing, 2009

Poe thinks this is younger MG time travel

First sentence: Aaron felt certain he was being watched.

The creepy opening sets up immediate expectations: mystery, danger. Poe applauds the high-caliber writing and the unusual setting in Amish farm country. Aaron is ten—old enough to camp on his lonesome in the farm field; young enough to bring his oldest stuffed toy along.

The sample on Poe's reading device ends just as Aaron realizes most of the neighbors use horse-drawn buggies instead of cars. But the online sample skips some pages, allowing the introduction of the neighbor kid, Jake (obviously slated to be the best friend and cohort in exploring the mystery in the old barn).

p.s. Jake's a girl.

If your younger middle grader likes mysteries, histories, and a quick read, then don't overlook this title.

By J. Y. Harris
Self-published in 2012

Poe thinks this is MG time-travel/historical

First sentence: The dull murmur of voices could vaguely be heard as they drifted up from the floor below.

The hook is promising. But the sample flouts several of the conventions that tend to draw readers in. The opening scene stars a woman (20 years married), and the teenaged protagonists don't appear until Chapter 2. The teens appear to be high schoolers (one takes Physics), but the simplicity and tameness of the plot (at least in the sample) make the book feel much younger. (Harris' own age range suggestion is young adult or teen.) Finally, the MCs have no plot trajectory in the contemporary world--no goals or situations interrupted by this jump through time; they're on their way to a school-required historical re-enactment, and wander into the past, where all the story will evidently take place.

Fantasy does have rules. Time travel, since it involves history, has more rules than other kinds of fantasy. Poe found this transport through time less than convincing—a sudden fog; a clearing in the woods that keeps its recognizable triangular shape from the 1770's to the present day; the teens' too-quick realization that they've changed time zones. And could two strangers stand on the edge of an Army camp for half a chapter without being challenged?

Still, a young reader's curiosity might be roused by the hint of a spy plot, and the sparkle in the details of place and time.

If your MG reader likes historicals, then give this book the once-over.

The After Cilmeri Series
By Sarah Woodbury
Self-published in 2011

Poe thinks this is YA/crossover alternate history (cum time travel)

First sentences: "How can you leave Gwynedd undefended, my lord? Without you, we can't hold back the English."

The first scene will tell you whether to buy this book. It's dense with exposition, set-up, and Welsh names. Poe judges this more of a crossover book; the only reason it can be called YA is that the time traveling sibs are 17 and 14 years old.

For the most part, the narrative flows smoothly. But Poe's suspension of disbelief was seriously challenged. In a coincidence that beats anything in Dickens, the author gives us two contemporary American teens who happen to be conversant in Welsh and familiar with its history—and who crash back in time and place to a 13th century battlefield in Wales. Poe felt everything comes too easily to the teen travelers, from figuring out where/when they are to being accepted and cared for by the warriors. This is another book in which the teens' contemporary lives seem mere bookends; Poe didn't feel anything except Mom's imagined distress pulling the kids back to their former lives.

Will you be hooked by the plot, the local color, or the characters? The generous sample gives you 160 pages to decide; Poe stayed aboard for only the first 33.

If you love alternate history, and if can suspend your disbelief far enough, then you may get into this series.

By Kelly Grant
Self-published in 2011

Poe thinks this is YA historical mystery (cum time travel)

First sentence: "Do you think he's dead?" Baldwin asked in a quavering whisper.

Mystery, history, and time travel—Poe is eager to read more.

The sample's too short to tell us exactly how MC Simon breaks the time barrier, but long enough to tell us that this is not his first ride around the centuries. We also learn that the third-person narration is flippant, full of surprises, and perfectly edited. That the girl Simon meets is smart. And that there's plenty of humor.

It would be even better if we got a hint of the danger, crime, or mystery to come.

The author's been an archaeologist, museum director, and history teacher, and (docent-like) includes the historical end-note as part of the sample. That's how we know that the setting is the England of Henry II.

A note to the author: Poe recommends deleting the interesting but convoluted set-up info from the book's Amazon sales page. To hook readers, the sales page blurb should zero in on the story's main hooks (time travel, era of destination, mystery)—think elevator pitch, or jacket flap. Ideally, the blurb will be short, sharp, and written in the same tone of voice as the book itself.

Queued for reading by Poe's phony fire this winter.

By Elle Strauss

Poe sampled this light YA time-travel series a few issues back. Read the review here.

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