Gunpowder and Teacakes: My Journey with Felicity

Published in 2017; author Kathlenn Ernst; illustrators Julie Kolesova and Michael Dwornik

"My Journey" books

These are choose-your-own adventure books written from a first person perspective. Just for ease, I'm going to always pick the first option when I come them, but I'll try to mention the other possible endings. Since the reader is meant to insert herself into the story, the main character (a modern-day pre-teen) isn't named. It would sound to weird to me to summarize the story as, "and then (Historical Characters) and I saw a..." so I'm going to use the author's first name as the main character's name, in this case, Kathleen.


School's out for the weekend, and Kathleen is invited to go with her friend Lauren to pick out her new puppy, along with their mutual friend Amara. But Kathleen has to decline: she and her father recently moved in with Kathleen's grandmother following the death of Kathleen's mother, and her father's rules are rigid. Kathleen hates to disappoint her friends, but rules are rules. Her grandmother tries to cheer her up, showing Kathleen an antique locket with a miniature portrait of a woman from 1775. Learning about it could be useful; Kathleen is going to join her dad as a volunteer in colonial Williamsburg; acting out life from more than two hundred years ago.

Kathleen needs some time to herself; the pang of missing her mother is especially strong now. She peers intently at the portrait in the locket. The woman's expression reminds her of her mother. Suddenly, she's in colonial Williamsburg, dressed in costume--and lying on the ground. She doesn't remember coming to the tourist attraction, though. What's going on? Another volunteer about her age helps her up, introducing herself as Felicity Merriman. Kathleen is impressed with how well Felicity is acting in her role, and figures she may as well play along until she figures out her next step. Of course, it doesn't take long to realize that EVERYONE is in costume, there are no tourists, and nothing is modern--no paved road, no signs of electronics. She's actually in 1775. Thinking quickly, Kathleen tests the locket to be sure she can easily return to her own time. She's able to do so with ease, and discovers that although she's spent five or ten minutes talking with Felicity, almost no time has passed in the present. Eager to explore this opportunity, Kathleen returns to 1775 and finds Felicity again. She's soon introduced to Ben, apprentice to Felicity's father, who warns the girls that the militia is coming, spurred by a recent gunpowder theft.

First choice: go to Felicity's house or stay for the militia

Felicity agrees to get Kathleen out of the commotion, and Ben escorts them through the gathering crowd. As they walk through the streets, Kathleen is amazed at what's the same and what's different between the actual place and the tourist attraction. Felicity points out her father's store, and asks if Kathleen is interested in seeing it.

Next choice: see the store or continue to the house

Kathleen's grandmother owns an antique store; she's very interested to see brand-new items that will one day become antiques. Not long after Kathleen is introduced to Mr. Merriman, he goes to attend the rally with the militia, leaving Felicity in charge. Almost immediately after, they're warned that the Committee of Safety is on its way. The Committee is devoted to making sure no shopkeepers buy any more goods from the British. They soon bluster their way in and destroy some merchandise before Kathleen speaks up, appalled at their behavior. She correctly points out that that the merchandise was bought well before the ban. Empowered, Felicity grabs the ledger book which can prove when different items were bought, and inquires who will pay for the destroyed goods. The men are put in their place, and leave chagrined.

Next choice: stay to find out more about the American Revolution, or return to the present

Mr. Merriman and Ben return shortly, and are grateful for Kathleen's quick thinking. Mr. Merriman is also concerned about the best course of action. Kathleen knows that the patriots will win, but of course declaring she knows the future isn't going to help. Mr. Merriman muses that he needs to start selling more locally-made goods right away, and should take out an ad in the local newspaper stating so. Kathleen is surprised by two things: first, that a woman owns and runs the newspaper; second, that Mr. Merriman is confident there will be high demand for pottery made by a local Native American tribe. She hadn't expected those attitudes in colonial times. Mr. Merriman asks Felicity and Kathleen if they can help.

Next choice: visit the Pamunkey tribe to buy pottery, or Miss Reed's newspaper to place the ad

Ben hitches up the cart, and he and the girls set out to a trading post. When they arrive, Kathleen encourages Felicity to come with her to view the pottery--Felicity has never spoken with a Native American before, and is a little nervous. Kathleen is surprised to learn that only do the two men with the pottery understand English, they speak it fluently. A lot of her assumptions are being challenged! There are many beautiful pots, and Felicity, Kathleen, and Ben select some to buy. Feeling embarrassed about her assumptions, Kathleen apologizes to the two men for thinking they wouldn't know English. One says he's glad he learned how to read and write, because it will help his tribe fight oppression by the government. On the way back to the Merrimans' shop, Kathleen asks if white children ever go to schools to learn the ways of the Pamunkey tribe, the way Pamunkey boys must learn about the colonists' ways. Felicity says of course they aren't, but is thoughtful about the matter. The story ends with Kathleen thinking how much she's learned from Felicity...and maybe Felicity learned some things from her.

About Felicity's Time

Indentured servitude was common Felicity's time; working to pay off a debt or as punishment for a crime. Many indentured servants' debt was their passage to the colonies from Europe. It would take several years of work to be free from it. Of course, there were also outright slaves in colonial times. They could never expect to earn freedom.


Dedicated to the author's family, "with happy memories of our visit to colonial Williamsburg."

Kathleen's mother died after a long illness, and her father put away all the pictures of her, unable to bear to look at his wife when she was happy and whole.

There's a very touching part where Kathleen mentions her mother in past tense, and Felicity astutely realizes that probably means her mother died. Felicity asks about her mother and expresses her sincere condolences. Most of Kathleen's peers in the present day avoid talking about her mother, as if they fear reminding her of the sadness of her mother's death. But Kathleen doesn't ever really forget that her mother is dead, and while remembering her is bittersweet, keeping her memory alive is important to Kathleen.

There's a brief mention of the schools that Native American children were forced to attend to "civilize" them. These reservation schools happened in North America as late as a few decades ago.

One of Kathleen's friends is at least half black (her mother is from Senegal). I was expecting more blunt mention of Felicity's desire for freedom contrasted with the fact that slavery wouldn't be outlawed in the new country for ninety years. There are only two storylines I saw that really drive home the point.

Felicity's coral necklace is a memento of a childhood friend named Charity, who died of a disease. Vaccinations remain one of the best advances in medicine--they save so many lives.

Some of the endings are online-only. So, these aren't good books to take anywhere without an internet connection.

Some other possible endings: Kathleen leaves after the altercation with the Committee of Safety, reflecting on how people have to make complicated choices regarding the safety of their families; Kathleen learns that talking can often avoid future conflict and has a conversation with her father that results in her being able to earn more privileges and trust and her father admitting she's not a little anymore (kind of like Mary Anne and her father in the Baby-sitters Club); going to the Merrimans' home has Kathleen returning to modern times struggling with the idea of how someone as nice as Felicity could justify slavery, especially when Felicity is for American independence; or it can help Kathleen heal a bit over the loss of her mother by reminiscing with caring people who offer sympathetic ears; visiting the Coles results in Kathleen declining a visit to the local British seat of government because she's firmly on the side of the patriots, and thinking that even though she's not yet old enough to vote and doesn't want to be a politician when she grows up, she can still make her country a better place; or accepting the invitation the palace can show Kathleen that the Revolution wasn't just patriots and loyalists but also native people, slaves, and settlers whose focus was on their household rather than the bigger picture; it can also humanize the loyalists by having her meet some friendly British sympathizers; she can also visit Felicity's grandfather to learn the same thing about loyalists; visiting Felicity's grandfather also brings up the subject of slavery; visiting the print shop allows Kathleen to meet Thomas Jefferson and reflect on while women had more privileges in 1775 than she expected they were still very much second-class citizens (women didn't get the vote in the US until 1920; Kathleen can realize that while her father's strict things could be far worse; returning to the present time when a raid gets too dangerous (after ensuring that Felicity will be safe) ends with Kathleen calling her friend to ask about her new dog and her friend admitting that the dog was to smooth over her mother's sudden weekend away--her father isn't able to have her over either (the friend's parents are divorced) so her grandfather will stay with her, but he only ever wants to watch TV. Kathleen realizes that while her father is overprotective, going too far the opposite way leaves kids feeling neglected. She invites her friend to come over on the weekend with her dog.

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