Tunnels of time, by Mary Harlekin Bishop, for Timeslip Tuesday

So in my quest to read every time slip book for kids and teens ever published in English (excluding all of the Magic Treehouse books and the Time Warp trio books...) I picked up Tunnels of Time, by Mary Harlekin Bishop (Coteau Books, 2000) for a buck at a used bookstore recently.  It was worth the dollar, though not all that much more to me personally, because I'm not really interested in prohibition and gangsters, and that's what the book delivered.

13-year-old Andy is not best pleased to be a junior bridesmaid for her cousin.  And so she arrives at the family's home town of Mouse Jaw, in Saskatchewan, in a sullen and sulky mood.  When it turns out the restaurant where the rehearsal dinner's being held has openings into a maze of tunnels, her interest is piqued. When she gets to look inside one of them, her interest becomes rather more intense; she bangs her head going into it, and travels back in time to the 1920s!

The tunnels are used by gangsters, whose leader, Big Al (Al Capone!), is running his forbidden alcohol business with an iron hand.  Andy is befriended by Vance, a boy in the crew of tunnel kids who run errands, guide visitors, and go places the grown men don't want to.  Before she really has time to process what's happened to her, she's working for Big Al too, under the spell of his charismatic personality.

Very quickly, though, she realizes just how cruel he really is, and so, with a bit of help from Al's discarded lover and Vance's kid sister, she lays a trap for him....and comes back to her own time wiser and more mature than when she left, ready to be nicer to her own sane, non-killer-gangster family.

It's rather light on the things I like best about time travel--the cultural dislocation, and the tension of wondering how to get home again.  Lop off the beginning and end, set in 2000ish, and tweak a few details, and it's historical fiction.  Andy spends most of the book down in the tunnels, doing gangster work and gangster foiling, so it's not a particularly wide canvass.  Which is fine if you like tunnels, prohibition, and gangsters, but like I said above, I don't much. But it is educational, and is based on the real history of Moose Jaw, so for kids who find time travel an appealing framing device to make historical fiction more palatable, and of course for gangster and tunnel adventure loving kids, especially the Moose Jawians, it has appeal.  

For what it is worth, the grown-ups liked it--it was picked as an Our Choice title by the Canadian Children's Book Centre.  There are three sequels, also down in the tunnels....and though I won't be actively looking for them, I will certainly pick them up if they come my way!

And the fact that the tunnels are open to visitors today sure makes me more likely to visit Moose Jaw next time I find myself in Saskatchwan (which would also be the first time...)


  1. Have you read A Traveler in Time by Alison Uttley? I tried searching for it under Timeslip Tuesday but could not find it. I think it would fit.

  2. Yep :) Up at the top I have a page of all the time travel I've reviewed organized by time period, so Traveler in Time can be found in Elizabethan/early Stuart England!

  3. I love that period. This sounds like a book I will like. Thanks for the heads up.


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