George’s little intro
Last time around, I waffled on a bit about a few time travel books that I’ve read. For today’s post, author Kate Forsyth has stopped by to tell us about her favourite time travel books. Kate is the author of The Puzzle Ring (an excellent time travel fantasy for kids and teens) as well as numerous other novels. To find out more about Kate and her writing, check out her website.
“My top 5 time travel books”
by Kate Forsyth
The past is a mysterious and dangerous place, so very different from our own that it could indeed be another world. The idea of travelling back in time has always fascinated me, and so I have always wanted to write a time travel adventure like the ones I used to love reading as a child.
Part of the joy of writing The Puzzle Ring was reading all those time travel stories again. Many of them had been books from my school library, so I had to hunt for copies on the Internet, buying them from second-hand and antiquarian bookshops all over the world.
Here are my five favourites:
1908 – Edith Nesbit, The House of Arden
The House of Arden has always been my favourite Nesbit novel. It’s about a boy called Edred who inherits a crumbling old castle when he is close to his tenth birthday but to his consternation he will only be able to keep it if he can find the lost Arden fortune before his birthday. Edred, his twin sister Elfrida, and the temperamental Mouldiwarp, a magical talking creature, travel through time searching for the treasure. The twins visit a number of different periods of English history, meeting witches and highwaymen and rebels and having exciting adventures. This book was definitely a very strong influence on me, particularly when I first began to conceive the story of The Puzzle Ring, and certainly the idea of being heir to an ancient castle and a treasure lie at the heart of my book too.
1939 – Alison Uttley, A Traveller In Time
This book tells the story of Penelope, who slips back and forth between her own time (1930s England) and Elizabethan times. Her adventures start when she goes to stay at an old, old farmhouse called Thackers in the countryside. Thackers was once owned by the Babington family, who famously tried and failed to rescue Mary, Queen of Scots while she was imprisoned by her cousin, Elizabeth I, and so this novel was one of the things which first began my fascination with the tragic Scottish queen. It’s an absolute classic and a must read for anyone interested in time travel stories.
1954 – Lucy Boston, The Children of Green Knowe
I loved this book as a child, and loved it just as much when I read it again while writing The Puzzle Ring. It tells the story of young Tolly who goes to stay with his great-grandmother, Mrs Oldknowe. Her house, Greenknowe, is old and mysterious and filled with stories of the past – stories that begin to come alive for Tolly. The house and its beautiful garden were based on Lucy Boston’s own house, The Manor, in Hemingford Grey, Cambridgeshire, which was built in the 1130s and lays claim to the oldest continually inhabited house in the UK. Lucy Boston once wrote: “I believe children, even the youngest, love good language, and that they see, feel, understand and communicate more, not less, than grownups. Therefore I never write down to them, but try to evoke that new brilliant awareness that is the world.’
This is what I try and do too.
1958 – Philippa Pearce, Tom’s Midnight Garden
Tom’s Midnight Garden won the Carnegie Medal in 1958, and is considered one of the great classics of English children’s literature. I think it is utterly enchanting, and perfect in every way. It’s one of those books that stay with you forever after.
Tom is sent to stay with his aunt and uncle in a boarding house when his brother gets measles. Bored to tears, he has nothing to do and wishes the old house had a garden in which he could play. That night he hears the old grandfather clock in the hallway downstairs strike thirteen, and runs downstairs to investigate. He finds the hallway opening on to the most wonderful garden, and explores it in absolute delight. Soon he meets a girl called Hattie, who he discovers lived there in the 19th century. She thinks Tom is a ghost, while he thinks she is – they argue about it and it makes Tom uneasy. As the days pass, Hattie grows up while Tom stays the same. The time comes for Tom to go home, but he doesn’t want to go – the midnight garden has become more real, more important to him than his real life. The ending is one of the most perfectly executed and moving moments in children’s literature – I feel the catch of breath, the sting of tears, every time I read it.
An amusing anecdote: when Philippa Pierce went to Buckingham Palace to collect her OBE, the Queen asked her, ‘Where do you get your ideas from?’ To which, Phillipa Pierce replied ‘Harrods.’ I just love that.
1988 – Jane Yolen, The Devil’s Arithmetic
A beautiful and moving novel about the Holocaust, The Devil’s Arithmetic tells the story of Hannah who, embarrassed by her grandparents’ enduring grief over their past, finds herself transported back to a village in Poland in the 1940s. Captured by the Nazis, she is taken to a death camp where she fights to stay alive and retain her dignity. At the end, she chooses to go to the gas chamber to save a friend in a scene that had me sobbing out loud with horror and disbelief. At that moment she returns to herself in contemporary times, but with a much deeper understanding of her grandparents’ inability to shake off the past. This is truly a brilliant book, one that should be read by everyone. It has been made into a movie, which I haven’t yet seen (though I would like to!)
George’s little bit at the end
I have not read a single one of these books, but they all sound fascinating. I obviously need to broaden my horizons. In my defence (such as it is) I can say that I have seen the 1989 BBC series of Tom’s Midnight Garden. I enjoyed it a great deal but I don’t know how faithful an adaptation it is.
After reading Kate’s selection, I was reminded of one other book I should have mentioned in my last post — Mark Twain’s 1889 novel A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court. Were I able to travel through time, I’d go back and fix this oversight, but seeing as I can’t, I’ll have to settle for mentioning it now instead. As the title suggests, it’s about an American who travels back in time to the court of King Arthur. It’s been filmed several times, including one version with Bing Crosby. I read the book a few years ago and loved it. Long winded and meandering, often humorous, occasionally political and sometimes lacking internal logic… but always interesting. And my god, Twain wrote some incredibly long sentences.
Catch ya later, George