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...)