3/20/18

The Art of the Swap, by Kristine Asselin and Jen Malone, for Timeslip Tuesday

The Art of the Swap, by Kristine Asselin and Jen Malone (Aladdin, Feb 2018), is equal parts time travel story, art heist and concomitant mystery to be solved, a visit to Gilded Age Newport, with a touch of a feminist message. It was a fun read.

Hannah's the daughter of the caretaker of one of Newport's many mansions (the Elms, which is a nice one!).  Having grown up amongst the antiques and opulence, she has a somewhat proprietary interest in the bygone inhabitants of the mansion, particularly Maggie Dunlap.  Maggie was another 12 year old who lived briefly at the Elms, and her portrait has made her real to Hannah.  But the painting is just a reproduction of the original painted by Mary Cassatt, which was stolen the day it was to be unveiled in 1905.

And then one day the portrait becomes a portal through which the two girls swap places in time.  Hannah, back in the past just a few days before the heist will occur, is determined to stop it, and Maggie is willing to give her a bit of time to do so.  But Maggie is tremendously ill-equipped to cope with the sweaty life of a modern girl (will Hannah ever be allowed to play on her soccer team again?) and Hannah is tremendously ill-suited to the role of proper young lady.

Using the portrait portal to communicate, the girls work together to save the painting...but first Hannah must figure out who did it, set up a plan to keep it safe for the future, and keep the young servant boy accused of the crime out of danger.  The clock is ticking--in our time, Hannah's father has planned a trip that will keep the girls from swapping back for weeks...and neither is doing a good job leading the other's life!

And this is the part that made it a bit hard for me to truly enjoy the book.  Neither puts particular effort into adopting the idioms and manners of their new time, though Maggie gets more points for this than Hannah.  This surprised me, because Hannah is supposed to be gung ho about the past of her home; she should have been a better impersonator! But she never gets any better.

But I did very much enjoy the experience each girl had of seeing their familiar home changed- this was really magical.  Plus the relationship between the two girls is solid though fleeting, and the lessons that they learn in each other's times (social history for Hannah and feminism for Maggie) are both valuable and believable, and the opulence of the Elms, both past and present, is very nicely made real.  And I think young readers are more likely than me to find the problems each experienced in the other's time funny!

So give this to a young reader who likes to daydream about fancy balls of the past while getting ready for soccer practice!

And if you come to Kidlitcon 2019 (next March in Providence RI) I can help you get down to Newport if you want to see the Elms for yourself!



5 comments:

  1. This is actually the thought that is tempting me!

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  2. Love the cover, love the title, and love the story concept. Thanks for the post.

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    Replies
    1. You're welcome! I hope you enjoy it.

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  3. I saw this was coming out, but wasn't sure if I wanted to read another "Prince and the Pauper"-like story. I think I would be disappointed, too, by the characters not acting like they were from the appropriate time!

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