Time Sight, by Lynne Jonell

Time Sight, by Lynne Jonell, is a book that was published last week (Henry Holt, May 14, 2019), but it has very much the feel of classic British time travel from last century (which I love).  It's the story of two American boys, 12-year-old Will Menzies and his little brother Jamie, quickly packed off to relations in Scotland (mother taken hostage while on a medical relief mission, father flying out to try to do something to free her).  Their relations are the caretakers of the old castle of the Menzies family, and in the land of his ancestors, time starts to pull on Will, and his gift of time sight emerges.

Will can focus his minds vision in such a way that it makes windows to different times, through which people and things can pass.  And so Will, Jamie, and their cousin Nan become embroiled in wild and often violent adventures from the ancient past to the middle ages.  "Time hearing" is another gift that their family has, that softens the language barrier.  Not all the time travel is them going back to the past; one adventure involves a Pictish warrior girl coming back to our time, and almost braining a reenactor critical of her authenticity.

The first adventure takes the kids back to the middle ages, where little brother Jamie gets mistaken for the lord's nephew, and taken to life with him.   Will hasn't acquired the skill to fine tune his time windows yet, and so the window he opens to find him takes him to a year later in the past, when Jamie has grown to be at home in the castle, and barely remembers his real life, and has no desire to go home.  I've always been very moved by this emotional complication for time traveling children, and this was no exception.

Will is a great protagonist, realistically sick with worry over his mother and his loss of his little to brother to the past, and then burdened with other responsibilities to the past and the present, but facing those burdens bravely, because there's no other choice.  The rich tapestry of the Scottish landscape and its inhabitants is engrossing, and though there's no time to spare to fully characterize many of the people met in the past, there's enough to them to make it believable that they have lives of their own.

As Will grows more and more tired from his journeys into the past, full of violence that he can't stop, he takes comfort from the one actual place of peace along the timeline--visits with an old monk.  His conversations with the monk lead him to take comfort in the belief that each person can contribute to the light shining against the darkness of the world, and though this philosophy isn't very subtly delivered to the reader, it's a darn good one nonetheless.

Sometimes I wish I could give books to my child self, and indeed that self would have enjoyed this one lots.  But what I'd actually like, in this case, would be to have had a chance to give me in the present the chance to read as if I were my child self  during the summer I was ten (no job, food supplied on demand, no kids to make demands, etc.; in short, no pressures to do anything but enjoy the reading).*   Despite not being in that happy prelapsarian state of grace, I enjoyed it and was moved by it.  I imagine that surely there are young romantic (in the pure sense of the word) history-loving readers like I was still out there, and if indeed there are, I hope they find this book!

My one reservation is that there is rather a lot of adventure packed into one book, making the book rather long; if given the choice, I'd have split it into two or three volumes.

I'm happy to see Kirkus liked it too; here's their starred review.

disclaimer: review copy received from the publisher

*thinking back, however, the summer I was ten was the summer my little sister kept begging me to play monopoly over and over with her, which was annoying when I was trying to read and which just goes to show that uninterrupted sybaritic reading perfection can't actually be found in this imperfect world.


  1. I have that exact thought with certain books, Charlotte. "Oh, my 10 year old self would have LOVED this one". I had a bit of uninterrupted reading time this weekend when my husband and daughter went camping, but they had to come home early due to weather. Sad for all.

  2. Even the cover has a lovely old-fashioned feel to it!

  3. Oh, yes, wouldn't it be wonderful to be our child reading selves again?! I can get a bit of that feeling when I read nostalgic books like this one. (Maybe I should read Children of Green Knowe again ...)


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