Within just twenty pages of this book I found myself transported in time – to the age of about 9 or 10 when I encountered time travel and portals with Philippa Pearce’s now classic ‘Tom’s Midnight Garden’. There the clock in Tom’s Aunt’s hallway strikes 13 and takes Tom to the Victorian garden, whereas here it is the old mirror in Great Aunt Joanna’s hallway which transports Alex and Ruby Pilgrim back in time to 1912.
I love the way that author Sally Nicholls has made reference to the changes which the children observe – clothing, food, manners, even jobs – and believe that this is helpful to younger readers in appreciating the way that the same house can be so different in different eras.
The story itself is a great adventure, rattling along at a happy pace, with fire, theft and a car chase among the marvellous occurrences. The siblings are drawn in to the family life within the great house where they befriend youngsters their own age, and meet Atherton and Mary on the eve of their wedding. This young couple are used to the unexpected befalling them on their travels and are not panicked by meeting time travellers or near-disaster – their strength of character is admirable.
I thoroughly enjoyed the book and am truly excited that this is the start of a new Time-Seekers series, with a second book, ‘The Secret in Time’, is on its way in February 2019.
If this seems too long to wait (it does to me!), I recommend Karen McCombie’s time-shift novel The Girl Who Wasn’t There (Scholastic), Ian Fleming’s vintage car adventure ‘Chitty Chitty Bang Bang’ (Macmillan) or Piers Torday’s ‘The Lost Magician’ (Quercus) where the portal takes children not to Narnia, but to a magical story world.
A word about the illustration and page appearance of A Chase in Time – Brett Helquist’s cover illustration and his clocks and ships in a bottle on the pages are delightful!
A Chase in Time by Sally Nicholls, illustrated by Brett Helquist. Published by Nosy Crow, August 2018