The Silver Tree, by Ruth L. Williams, for Timeslip Tuesday

This week's timeslip story is an older one--The Silver Tree, by Ruth L. Williams (1992), and in face I was surprised to find it was a recent as it was; I would have thought it was a few decades older....

When we meet Micki Silver, she's a sulking, unpleasant sort of girl, making no effort to behave pleasantly to her parents or her little sister.  When she sulkily goes off by herself in a rather strange toy museum, and goes into a room marked "private," she finds a most remarkable dollhouse.  The child dolls inhabiting it are alive....

She travels back to the time of the original house and its inhabitants, the 19th century, where she's accepted as the orphaned cousin the family had been expecting.  It's a largish family of five siblings, one of whom is a girl her own age.  But tragedy strikes right at the beginning of her time with them, when the oldest boy has a bad fall from a tree, and his life hangs from a thread.  A strange old woman appears and disappears sporadically, giving warnings and enigmatic utterances involving branches and trees, and as Micki mulls over her words, she realizes that her own angry and pointless impulse in her own time caused the accident.

She wished she'd never been born, and to her horror, it seems like her wish might be granted....because the 19th century boy in danger of dying is her own ancestor (hence the branches and trees in the warnings--it's family trees....)

So the dollhouse and enigmatic old women are strange and have to be swallowed with many gains of salt, but the actual time travel part is good time travel reading, with Micki learning to be a 19th century girl, and becoming friends with her cousin in the past, and travelling back and forth between her own time and the past.  This is the sort of book that I think if you read it young, and it was one of your first time travel stories, would make a huge and very favorable impression.  Indeed, this is what the Goodreads review indicate.  

And even for a veteran reader of time travel it's soothingly familiar and yet still interesting, though it would have been tidier if there'd been some explaining about just who or what the old woman was....and also the dollhouse aka ancestral home in the toy store is not explained at all.  That being said, the toy museum's manager seems to be the same old woman, so I guess it's all a set up to teach Micki a lesson, although why is the old woman bothering? Fortunately it's not overly didactic in its message that Micki has a lot of growing up to do with regard to recognizing that actions have consequences, but I was really glad to see her being taught this lesson! 

Short answer--a fine choice to give to a 9 or 10 year old who you think might enjoy time travel, but no particularly compelling reason to read it if you are older than that, unless you like quick reads about modern girls in Victorian families (that lack any grappling with difficult history, or social and economic issues, except for Micki's aggravation about clothing and embroidery lessons....).  

Here's its Kirkus review, which pretty much agrees with me....This seems to be the author's only book, which is a bit disappointing, because despite being somewhat lukewarm about it, I'd have read more by her....

1 comment:

  1. It's always interesting to read a book that was published many years ago. This sounds like a fun read for the younger set. Thanks for telling me about this one.


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