April 05, 2016
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In the war-ravaged England of 1940, Charlotte Bromley is sure of only one thing: Kitty McLaughlin is her best friend in the whole world. But when Charlotte's scientist father makes an astonishing discovery that the Germans will covet for themselves, Charlotte is faced with an impossible choice between danger and safety. Should she remain with her friend or journey to another time and place? Her split-second decision has huge consequences, and when she finds herself alone in the world, unsure of Kitty's fate, she knows that somehow, some way, she must find her way back to her friend. Written in the spirit of classic time-travel tales, this book is an imaginative and heartfelt tribute to the unbreakable ties of friendship.
Once Was a Time is a time travel book more about time travel than time travelling - and more about friendship than either of them.
Charlotte and her best friend Kitty love hearing Charlotte's father speak about time travel. They know it's top secret and they can't tell anyone, know that even Charlotte's siblings aren't sure they believe him, but the girls believe. Whether they actually would travel to another time and place given the opportunity is uncertain but they love hearing about the possibility.
How time travel actually takes place in Once Was a Time is different from what I've read in other novels. Here it doesn't involve magic or fancy machines, but physics and maybe chance. What readers and the characters know of its possibility and what it would mean sets things up nicely when Charlotte faces her dilemma.
There seemed to be very little adjustment once Charlotte found herself alone, away from her father and Kitty. It seemed to fit, though, with her character's age, the book and the different passages of time between chapters.
I liked the focus on Charlotte, her adjustment, her guilt that she is on her own and by her own choosing, and the decisions all of that leads her to make. I did not always understand her reasoning but liked seeing how it played out in who she was and what she did. It is a more fantastical basis, to be sure, but what she does was very realistic for middle school (even without any time travel involved).
Her love of books and reading and how it's never quite the 'cool' thing but still something there for her no matter the when was great. When the library - and all that takes place in and around/about it - is added in, it was even better. It was a nice side to Charlotte's personality executed very well.
I really enjoyed Charlotte's story, about her friendship with Kitty, the similarities she sees in children her age across time, the decisions she makes, how she feels about them and her conviction never to give up on her best friend. We learn a lot about Kitty, how to treat others and the not so great choices that can be made with good intentions. And that, hopefully, it's never too late to right some wrongs.
received from publisher, for review, via NetGalley