Bailey's Window, by Anne Lindbergh, illustrated by Kinuko Craft, for Timeslip Tuesday

Anne Lindbergh (daughter of the famous Charles) wrote a number of children's books, perhaps the best known of which is The People in Pineapple Place (my review).  That one, and several of her other books, like The Shadow on the Dial (my review) and Three Lives to Live (my review), are time travel.  The one's I've read aren't particularly outstanding, but they are for the most part pleasant enough reading, and so in my quest to read every single time travel book for children (excluding all the Magic Treehouse books), I requested Baily's Window (HMH Books 1984) from the library.

Bailey is sent to stay with his two cousins, Carl and Anna, in rural New York for the summer.  They and their friend Ingrid aren't at all happy with this, Bailey having been a pill on his previous visit the previous year.  And unfortunately, just before he leaves home, Bailey hears part of a phone conversation in which Anna loudly makes it clear just how unwanted he is.  So when Bailey arrives he's sore and angry, and determined to be mean.

And mean he is.  The things he does are really rotten, not only getting his cousins into trouble, but damaging property.  It gets to the point where even Carl and Anna's parents don't want him anymore.  In a typical Bailey move, he pilfers Anna's beloved paint set, and paints a window opening up onto a winter scene on to the bare wall of the room he shares with Carl.  Magically, the window opens, and Bailey steps out of August into the snow.

The magic is too wonderful not to share, and so Bailey draws other windows for all the kids to travel through.  When they learn that Bailey's beloved dog, Fox, had recently gotton lost, finding him becomes the impetus for their travels, taking them twice to New York city.  In all the window places, there's a mysterious man who keeps abjuring Bailey to use his head, and when Bailey finally does,  Fox is found and the magic ends.

But by that point the four kids are friends, and all is well.

On the plus side, the real world life in the country of New York is nicely done (although the city is shown in a very negative light--only country is good here). I liked that the girls aren't treated any differently from the boys; I don't remember any gender stereotyping. There is no explanation of how and why the magic works, or why on earth the mysterious man who seems behind it would have carried enough about Bailey and Fox to make it happen. But it's rather cool magic, which, as in Edgar Eager's wonderful books, has to be thought through carefully, or things go wrong....That being said, this isn't anywhere near as clever and funny as Eager's books, but it's pretty entertaining.

Except. There is a really stereotypical visit to cannibals who capture the kids, and I would have thought that by the 1980s books were moving away from stereotypical savages, but no. Since the author was raised by fascist racists, I guess it's not surprising that she'd go down that road. The New York kids are proud of their Scandinavian descent, and dub themselves the Vikings, which in itself isn't awful, but with the context of Lindbergh's family, and the cannibals (even though it is but one magical event of many), it feels really gross to someone reading the book at this particular moment in time (at least it does to me). It occurs to me that Eager also has savages tying the kids up on a desert island in Magic by the Lake, but he's a few decades earlier (1950s), so I expect less; this was already my least favorite book of his so I don't mind liking it even less now I'm thinking back on it more critically.

So basically this seems modeled on Eager, but not as good. The cannibals, coupled with the fact that Bailey is actively unkind and destructive for much of the book, made this one miss the mark for me. I have, I think, three more Lindbergh time travel books to read...I will put them off for a bit.

The cover of the book I read is the 1991 edition, and for a bit extra time travel, here it is in all its dated glory:

1 comment:

  1. You are doing a great job in your quest to read All the Time Travel Books. I've been underwhelmed by Lindbergh's work as well.


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