The Accidental Time Traveller, by Janis Mackay, for Timeslip Tuesday

It's such a nice thing, to be a fan of middle grade time travel stories and to find a new to me series!  The Accidental Time Traveller,  by Janis Mackay, the first of three books, was the Scottish Children's Book Awards winner in 2013, and it was a fun, and toward the end rather moving, story.

Saul is an ordinary kid in 2012, living in the small Scottish town of Peebles.  His family works hard to make ends meet, and the baby twins keep his mother busy.  He has his two best mates, and they've made a den for themselves in a derelict hut on an old estate whose grand house is long gone. It's almost Christmas, and snow is falling.  All very ordinary...

And then he's in the right place at the right time to see a girl in a long dress with frilly bits almost get hit by a car. She clings to him fiercely, and blows his mind by her story.  Agatha Black has just arrived from 1812, and doesn't know how to get back again.  Saul isn't sure he believes her, but she's clearly in need of help, and so he takes her to the hut.  There Agatha tells Saul how her father, desperate for fame and fortune, experimented with time travel, using her as his guinea pig.The next week is full of Agatha having her mind blown by modernity and Saul trying clumsily to pretend this strange kid is normal, with only marginal success.

The all male dynamic of Saul and his two friends is of course disrupted by a girl in their hut (Saul's early attempts to claim Agatha is a boy don't hold water for long).  And then Agatha of her own volition makes friends with a girl from Saul's class, Agnes, poor and ignored by just about everyone. After initial doubtfulness, the three boys become real friends with the two girls.  But Agatha needs to get home.

And so Saul tries to recreate the alchemical components and mystic state of mind her father had used to send her into the present.  The sticking point is the need for gold, not something broke kids can easily get their hands on.  But in a nice twist, the bits and pieces of information Agatha has let fall give Saul just what he needs to get the gold....and Agatha returns to her own time.

And the end is very moving, not just because of Agatha getting home, and then the discovery of her gravestone, but because of Agnes now having a place as a valued member of the friend group.  Saul's realist voice and experiences ground the book firmly in the present, and those looking for wild time travel romps will be disappointed.  But the time travel is very real, and very magical, and it is fun (though slightly uncomfortable on her behalf) seeing fish out of water Agatha cope with the 21st century.  She's an exceedingly brave, self-reliant girl, and I liked her lots.  She was very good for Saul--the experience of knowing her stirred up his mind considerably!  Both he and readers pick up a nice bit of social history, very painlessly and naturally.

I look forward to the next two books!

1 comment:

  1. This sounds like a terrific book. I will be looking for it. Thanks for the heads up.


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