2/5/13

The Girl Who Slipped Through Time, by Paula Hendrich, for Timeslip Tuesday

Anyone looking for a dated time-travel story that emphatically underlines the message that humans need to save Nature or else need look no further than The Girl Who Slipped Through Time, by Paula Hendrich (Weekly Reader Books, 1978, 128 pages).   It tells of a young girl, Paramecia, from the far future (2040),  who has lived all her life isolated from what little of the natural world has survived man-made catastrophes (including droves of mutated jackrabbits).  Her parents are determined to do what they can to bring the dying earth back to life...and so, as the story begins, young Para is being reluctantly dragged across a scorched wasteland of former prairie in an Air Cushion Vehicle.

And when the Air Cushion Vehicle malfunctions, our angry heroine sets out for a walk on her own...and miraculously enters a world where nature is still alive, and well...at least for the moment.  She is taken in by sympathetic locals--an old woman and the boy she's been looking after.  They are friendly, curious, but not too suspicious, and they can teach her valuable lessons about loving animals!

But she discovers that she is not in some bastion of miraculously intact bastion of nature with no indoor plumbing---she has travelled back in time to the 1930s just as the Dust Bowl is getting going.   And there are people back then who want to eradicate all varmints!   She learns this is bad, and begins to appreciate her parents' mission--but will she ever make it home to tell them?

Yes! The mysterious old woman who helps her is a space alien!  Which actually isn't how she gets home again, and I'm just mentioning it because it is odd.   But Paramecia does bring home two baby coyotes, as well as learning a lesson, so it was all worth while (?).

Maybe to the young reader who's never read a time travel book, never encountered a book that describes a possible future, and never read a didactic book about appreciating the environment will love this one.  The characters and story are fine, I guess, though odd (the whole alien granny twist, for instance, really threw me).

But  I myself found Paramecia's futuristically stiff diction off-putting, and I couldn't believe in the dramatic changes that are supposed to have occurred in technology and society.   2040 is just not far enough away, even from the point of view of 1978, when the book was written.   I myself, born in the late 1960s, still plan on being around with all my quaint archaic words, like "year", in 2040, come eco-catastrophe or not.  (However, judging from the cover, hairstyles stayed stuck in the late 1970s).

However, anyone looking for time travel books that teach Valuable Lessons to the Reader (as opposed to the particular character), and there aren't actually that many of them, should seek this one out.

(I am now thinking Deep Thoughts about what makes a book one with a Message, as opposed to one that just makes a reader more thoughtful and informed.   I suppose, as in so many other things, it is a blurry line...)



8 comments:

  1. Is she really called "Paramicia"? I'm afraid I can't take seriously someone whose name reminds me of single-celled protozoans! :)

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    1. eeks--my bad, its Paramecia, because she really is named after the protozoana!

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    2. Somehow that makes it even worse! :) You're a better woman than I am to finish reading the entire book - I would have been laughing too hard to get past the first page.

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  2. I'm in the middle of revising a time-slip novel for ages 10--14, so reading your reviews is interesting and informative. Sometimes I wonder if we adults bring too much back knowledge with us to the reading table. After reading about THE GIRL WHO SLIPPED THROUGH TIME, I don't think I'd like it very much, but if I'd read the book when I was only nine or ten, I might have found a lot to ponder. Authors who write for children are really expected to write for two very different audiences: adults and children. Not an easy task.

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  3. True--there are some books that are good because they are just right for the child audience, even though adults find them wanting! Good luck with yours!

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  4. I read this book when I was ten. I cannot believe I found The Girl Who Slipped Through Time. A fifteen year old girl with normal teenage problems slips away from her family into an earlier era, where she befriends the boy who will become her father. She takes the reader on a journey of real life lessons to be learned of her own family origins and who she will become. This story is a classic. Don't judge it, 'til you read it. Because of books like this, I have grown up to be an accomplished author myself. Mickey Elliott author of COUNTESS

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    1. I do think that if I had read it when I was young I would have enjoyed it a lot more!

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  5. Oh my God - I remember this book! I'm 44 years old and I haven't seen this since the 5th grade. There's another one I'm trying to remember about a pair of sisters who have a type of paranormal ability. One picks up messages through the static on the television and they're trying to find a girl who went missing some years back...something about a tree in the woods. I liked it but once my super-churchy mother heard about it, I wasn't allowed to hear the rest. If only I could remember the name...

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