Ripped Away, by Shirley Reva Vernick, for Timeslip Tuesday

Ripped Away, by Shirley Reva Vernick (February 2022, Fitzroy Books) is a great upper middle grade time travel book, perhaps even my favorite time travel book of the year so far.

Abe Pearlman is a lonely kid with a head full of stories and no friends.  He has a huge crush on Mitzy, whose also something of a loner, but can't manage to say hi to her.  On his way home from school one day, he sees a sign for a fortune teller, and unexpectedly finds himself curious enough to go inside.  The fortune teller asks him what he most wishes for, and he tells her he wants to be a more interesting person.  She then tells him  that someone is going to die, but that he can save that person.  And then he blacks out.

He comes too in a horse drawn wagon in Victorian London.  He is now Asher, who works for a jewelry peddler, and lives in a tenement with his impoverished mother.  All of Asher's life is there in his head.  Understandably, he is freaked out, and figures that maybe saving the life the fortune teller mentioned is his way home.  And then Jack the Ripper murders a woman just steps away from where he is standing with the horse and cart....

Back in the tenement, Abe finds that Mitzy has also travelled back in time...she too went to have her fortune told, and now she is a blind girl, Maya, his upstairs neighbor living with her mother and her uncle, a butcher.   Both kids are from Jewish immigrant families, and this is a bad time to be Jewish in London.

The city is roiled by the Ripper killings, and  Jews are being targeted as suspects.   Antisemitism is rampant.  The police are looking in Jewish homes for the knife used in the killings, and when Mitzy's uncle won't produce his butcher knives, he is arrested and considered guilty.  Abe sees this as a  chance to save a life, and is able to get the uncle to tell him where his knives are, and why he hidden them.  But Mitzy's way home is still unclear, and the longer the two kids stay in the past, the stronger the lives of Asher and Maya are becoming, starting to subsume their own identities....

The time travel plot (which gets very tense!) and the murders (off stage, but also tense) set up a gripping framework for the excellent character-driven story.  The friendship/nascent romance developing between the two kids is heart-warming, and although Mitzy has little agency (though she does bring her intelligence to bear on the situation), Abe demonstrates pleasing initiative and intelligence.  The sensory details and descriptions really transport the reader back in time as well, without slowing down the story.  It is a short book, only 118 pages, but it gets everything done nicely. There are very few Jewish time-travel books for kids, and so it's great to have this one, with its top notch cultural and historical details. 

disclaimer--review copy received for Cybils Awards judging.

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