Ten year old Lottie Bromley and her best friend Kitty McLaughlin are inseparable, friends in the midst of war and deprivation in 1940 Bristol, England. However, when Lottie’s father’s research into the possibilities and uses of time travel does separate the girls, Lottie is determined to find Kitty again—and ask forgiveness for having deserted her friend in a crisis.
Time travel is always a tempting story premise, but tricky to handle. It all sort of becomes mind-bending and gives the reader (and the author, presumably) a headache, as in this epic discussion from LOST:
In Once Was a Time, one character’s idea is that one can never travel back in time, only forward, since you can’t change the past because it would change the present and the future too much. Another possible “rule” of time travel is that you can’t time travel to a time during your own lifetime since that would make two of the same person exist in the same time. OF course, these are all theoretical “rules” since Lottie’s father is just researching time travel, not actually engaging in it. And then danger comes in the form of a kidnapping/hostage situation, and Lottie does see a time portal and get the chance to flee into it. She doesn’t know when or where she’s going, but she ends up in Sutton, Wisconsin on August 20, 2013.
A great many pages after that crisis time travel episode are filled with Lottie’s observations on the differences between England in 1940 and Wisconsin in 2013. I found these cultural and time period differences to be fascinating, but I don’t know if most children will agree. There’s also a subplot/theme about bullying and fitting in with the right crowd that may relate to kid concerns, but conversely, didn’t really engage me. So I liked the historical and time travel aspects, and others may get something else out of the same book.
Whatever draws you in, Lottie’s story about friendship and forgiveness and the power of choosing to be a friend is a story worth reading. The fact that Lottie finds a safe haven and a new friend in the library is just extra sauce to an already good stew of a story.