The Lilac Tunnel: My Journey with Samantha

Published in 2014; author Erin Falligant; 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. Since it would sound to weird to me to summarize the story as, "and then (Historical Characters) and I saw a..." I will use the author's first name, in this case, Erin.


Erin has just arrived at her father's home in suburbs of New York City. He recently remarried, and while Erin's stepmother and five-year-old stepsister Gracie are nice enough, Erin is feeling resentful that she has to give up part of her summer to be at her dad's house. Why did her parents get divorced, anyway? In an effort to catalyze their bonding, Erin's stepmother gives her an heirloom pendant. It belonged to her grandmother, who gave it to her when she was having a rough time. Erin accepts it politely, but declines to offer to leave the bedroom (which she has to share with Gracie) to scrapbook with her stepmother and stepsister. She looks over the pendant, popping it open to see if there are any pictures inside. No pictures, but suddenly Erin's falling and lands, of all places, in some shrubbery. She grabs the pendant again and is back in her room. Fascinated, Erin opens the pendant again.

She's back in the bushes. Upon closer inspection, it's a lilac bush, part of a hedge between two ornate houses. She's able to watch from her hiding place as a boy comes out of one house and a girl from the other, following a woman who carries a heavy rug and hangs it up to beat the dust from it. Suddenly, the boy spots her--and grabs her pendant! Erin tries to get it back, and is glad when the other, who is now also in the lilac bush, backs her up, demanding the boy give back the pendant. He relents, and the two girls are alone in the tunnel in the bushes. The girl is Samantha Parkington. The woman cleaning the rug is not Samantha's mother, as Erin first assumed, but the maid. Samantha's rich! But as Samantha reveals, she's also an only child and an orphan (i.e.; only children aren't "lonely children" but in Samantha's circumstances, she feels especially alone with her parents gone). Just then Elsa, the maid, comes up demanding to know who Erin is. Is she laundry maid that was supposed to come a few weeks from now? Or is she, as Samantha guesses, a girl who was bike riding, judging by her "bloomer" (unlike the other characters, Erin's clothes didn't change into era-appropriate ones and she's in a t-shirt and capris).

First choice: agree that she's the laundry maid to ensure she sees more of Samantha's home, or agree that she was bike riding

Erin says she's the laundry girl, hoping to see inside Samantha's wealthy home. Elsa takes her inside and Erin notes how spacious the kitchen is--in part because there's no microwave, dishwasher, or refrigerator. It's still lovely and fancy. But things get awkward very quickly; the lady of the house (Samantha's grandmother) a very proper lady, and Erin knows her causal clothes don't fit in. But Erin is taken on as the laundry girl. When Samantha's grandmother offers her a dollar a week for wages, Erin is taken aback. It's then she notices a calendar with 1904 printed on it. She's gone back in time more than a century. Samantha has followed Erin and Elsa inside, and senses there's something odd about Erin. She asks Erin if she's "on her own."

Next choice: go along with Samantha's assumption or say something about her family

Elsa is dismayed that the laundry girl is an orphan--she's sure she'll have to take care of a child in addition to her other duties now. But Samantha's grandmother repeats her instructions to show Erin to her room and get her proper clothes. After all, it's not her fault her parents died. Erin is soon in an uncomfortable grey dress with a starched white apron. Elsa asks if she's done much laundry before, and takes her silence as evidence that she won't know what to do (a fair assumption; Erin rarely uses the washer and dryer on her own, much less their 1904 counterparts). Elsa sets out to find another way for Erin to help.

Next choice: set the table or fold napkins

Erin fumbles with how to arrange the array of silverware. There are multiple forks and spoons of varying sizes. Elsa has to help her, and with other tasks. The one tasks Erin feels competent in, picking flowers for a centerpiece, even goes awry when Samantha strikes up a conversation--Erin is there to work, not socialize. She ends up spilling ashes all over a carpet, and of course there's no vacuum cleaner. When the dinner guests are about to arrive, Elsa takes Erin up to her room on the third floor, warning her to stay out of sight. After an hour or two, Erin is growing increasingly hungry. Surely the dinner guests are gone by now.

Next choice: sneak downstairs or stay in her room

Creeping into the kitchen, Erin grabs a slice of bread and is immediately caught by Elsa. After a severe scolding, she's sent back to her room. In the morning, Samantha's grandmother calls Erin into her parlor, and announces she's arranging for Erin to be sent back, to go on the orphan train out west. Samantha is appalled, but her grandmother has made her decision. Samantha is determined to find another option though, and has an idea: if Erin can get a job in a factory, she'll be able to stay in a factory boarding house. Of course, Erin could just return home, and without being noticed if she's on the orphan train. But looking for a factory job would mean spending more time with Samantha.

Next choice: get a factory job or leave for the orphan train

Samantha is able to convince her grandmother to call a factory foreman, who agrees that Erin can start at seven the next morning. This leaves the rest of the day open for fun with Samantha. But all too soon it's the next day, and the factory work conditions are a bit below OSHA standards. Erin is horrified that children her age can't attend school, aren't allowed to talk while they work, can't have breaks until lunch, and are even locked in the workroom. She pens a note to Samantha, explaining that she has a home waiting for her and she must go, but she'll never forget the brief friendship she shared with her. Erin returns to modern times, grateful that she has a loving family.

About Samantha's Time

The early 1900s was known as the Age of Confidence, because so many new inventions and discoveries were making the world seems safer and better. Understanding how disease is transmitted, for example, lead to better health care; and mechanization brought down the cost of goods so more people could afford luxuries (or even necessities). Not everything was so rosy; while women and girls enjoyed more freedom than in the past, women still couldn't vote for another fifteen years. And of course not everyone was upper class, like Samantha. The poor still struggled, often working long hours in the factories for little pay. And while germs were understood, medicine was still catching up: there weren't many vaccines for common and dangerous diseases, and antibiotics wouldn't be invented for a few more decades. There was still lots of progress to be made.


Dedicated to Nicki, Holly, Alex, and Kenley; "whose imaginations take us on great journeys."

This is set before any of Samantha's other books; she hasn't met Nellie yet.

In one storyline, Erin goes to a doctor due to the bump on her head she got when she first arrived in 1904. Another patient there has chicken pox, which Erin hasn't had. She's worried she might catch it, because Samantha and her grandmother tell her it's very contagious but you can only get it once. A girl who's about nine or ten in 2014 would have most likely been vaccinated for chicken pox, but wouldn't remember since that shot is given before the age of two. One ending does reveal that Erin was vaccinated, much to her relief (in another she doesn't think to ask).

Also in this storyline (hmm, I should have gone against my self-imposed "first choice" rule), is prescribed a new drug: aspirin. Samantha's grandmother doesn't really trust the new-fangled thing, instead giving Erin willow bark tea. Since 1986, aspirin has been recommended only for people over 18, as usage younger than that is correlated with Reye's syndrome. However, aspirin was originally derived from willow bark, so...

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

Some other possible endings: agreeing to be taken to the orphan almost ends in disaster when Erin notices she's left her pendant at Samantha's home, but Samantha is able to retrieve it just in time, allowing Erin get back to her father's house, grateful for the loving family she has and ready to get to know the new members; going to Piney Point for a day when Samantha is on vacation can lead to helping Samantha learn more about her late mother which gives Erin an appreciation for her family; visiting a turn-of-the-century doctor can reveal how far privileges for women have come and hope for more equality (there's a woman doctor, which flabbergasts Samantha's grandmother, it later leads to discussion about "proper" ladies not working); a midnight swim with Samantha and her aunt Cornelia can be similarly inspiring, as Cornelia is very progressive; not failing miserably as a laundry girl (aside from briefly being wrongly accused of stealing jewelry) earns Erin a whole dollar, and a good work ethic; showing Samantha how to ride a bike inspires Erin to teach her stepsister the same, to bond with her; a few other endings also lead to better bonding with Gracie; overhearing a marriage proposal from the Admiral to Samantha's grandmother (which he does every summer) can lead to Erin vaguely reassuring Samantha; it can also lead to Erin talking about her stepfamily to more openly reassure Samantha; and one ending has Erin wondering her stepmother went back in time too--she plans to hint at it, and even if her stepmother isn't forthcoming, Erin is happy she'll have something to start a conversation with her stepmother to get to know her better.


A New Beginning: My Journey with Addy

Published in 2014; author Denise Lewis Patrick; illustrators Julie Kolesova and Michael Dwornik; author photo by Fran Baltzer Photo

"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. Since it would sound to weird to me to summarize the story as, "and then (Historical Characters) and I saw a..." I will use the author's first name, in this case, Denise.


Denise is frustrated. Her mother is always gone at work or school, and her dad is working in another state so he's only home once in a while. Consequently, her grandparents have moved in to help with Denise and her younger brother. She loves her grandparents, but it's not the same as having her parents. It's so hard for her to focus on things that seem unimportant, like history--evidenced by how she just failed a social studies test. Denise's grandfather tries to help her see that history is about the people who came before her, not just memorizing dates. He shows her a coin from 1864. It's from the first paycheck a distant relative got as a soldier in the Civil War. His mother kept it to remember him and help her look forward to when he could return home and the war would be over. Later in the evening, Denise is studying the coin. She rubs the date imprinted on it and suddenly feels dizzy...

Denise is shocked to find herself standing on a pier on a riverbank. Everything looks old-fashioned. She looks at the coin in her hand and rubs the date again. It works; she's back in her bedroom. But it's not long before curiosity gets the better of her, and she rubs the date to transport herself back to the pier. As she takes in her surroundings, trying to understand what's happening, a girl her age introduces herself as Addy Walker, welcoming Denise to freedom (Denise is explicitly black in this narrative) and inviting her to an event at the church, which hosts a freedmen's society. Denise is confused. Freedom? She's always been free. Denise quickly realizes that the coin must have taken to when and where it was minted: 1864 in Philadelphia (okay, I'm guessing on where it was minted, but it's a fairly safe assumption: the Denver mint didn't start operating until 1906, the Philadelphia mint started in the 1790s, and San Francisco mint was mostly doing gold coins then, plus it was far away). Denise follows Addy, who clearly knows her way around. She's fascinated by all the wares being sold in the shops. Addy points ahead to a group of soldiers preparing to leave for war.

First choice: join the farewell to the soldiers or explore a store window

As Denise watches the men march past, she notices some of the crowd is crying, not cheering. It hits her that these men are people's sons, husbands, brothers, and fathers. Addy mentions that her own brother wanted to be a soldier. She's separated from him, and hopes he's been able to follow his dream. Then Addy shifts tones, and says it's time to head to the church (which is same way the other option ends up). Addy opens up more about her family on the way, about how her father and brother were sold and how she and her mother had to leave her baby sister behind with relatives when they escaped slavery. Denise talks about her own family vaguely enough to fit with Addy's assumption that she's also an escaped slave. Denise is welcomed warmly at the church, where she spies a flyer that confirms it's November 1864. When Addy's mother learns that Denise is alone, she insists that she stay with the Walkers. Outside the church, a gruff white man stops them, demanding to see proof that they're free, rather than escaped slaves.

Next choice: run or let Addy try to explain

The girls bolt, Addy leading Denise through a small hole in a fence. The man can't fit through it. They run back to the church, and Addy's mother takes them home. Denise spends the evening and the next morning silently marveling at how little Addy and her mother have compared to her family in modern times, but how much more it must seem to them as recently-escaped slaves. Soon it's time for school. Addy's actually excited to go, but Denise reminds herself that Addy was only recently got the opportunity to receive an education. She doesn't take it for granted. At the school, Denise quickly notices that there no white or Hispanic or Asian students; it's completely segregated. Soon after the class starts, the students break into reading groups. Since it's illegal to teach slaves to read and write in the South, Addy assumes that reading aloud will be difficult at best for Denise. She asks Denise if she wants to take a turn with the book.

Next choice: read or decline

Careful to not show off, Denise reads slowly but competently. Addy is impressed, and Denise says that she learned to read before reaching Philadelphia. Rather than feeling overshadowed, Addy is thrilled that she can have Denise for a study partner. As the school day progresses, Denise continues to be impressed by Addy's determination to continue learning and her refusal to be discouraged by any difficulty. She wants to do something nice for Addy.

Next choice: find a way to make a book for Addy (Denise can't very well spend her coin; she won't be able to get back to modern times) or help Addy write a letter to a freedmen's camp to ask if there's any word about Addy's father or brother

During recess, the teacher (who's in on the plan) asks Denise to stay in so she can get information to enroll her in school. The teacher supplies Denise with some heavy paper (left over gift wrap) and helps her cut several pages to size. Denise writes a short story about finding friendship and the freedom it gives, ending with a hopeful paragraph about Addy's whole family joining her in freedom and a thank you to Addy for teaching Denise the value of education. The teacher suggests asking Addy's mother for a needle and thread to bind the book. After school, Addy's mother and her employer are happy to give Denise a needle and thread and a bit of ribbon to complete the book (Addy is delivering dresses). As Denise puts the finishing touches on her illustration, she starts to feel homesick. She's suddenly so grateful for her family--even if they're not quite under the same roof, the situation is temporary with a set end date, and she knows her family is safe, and she can talk to them often. Denise gives Addy the book when Addy returns, thanking her for teaching her so much. She explains that her family is nearby and she has to leave to reunite with them. Addy thanks Denise for the book and their time together, and Denise returns to the present.

About Addy's Time

While slavery was outlawed in Pennsylvania and the rest of the North, segregation was still very much legal. Various groups like freedmen societies and the Quaker Aid Society were on hand to help newly freed slaves navigate a world in which they couldn't enjoy full freedom. The Quaker Aid Society even founded the Institute for Colored Youth, the first high school for black students. Started in 1837, its primary goal was to train African American students to be teachers themselves, so more freed slaves could have access to quality education.


Dedicated to Yolande, the author's sister.

Just recently, I've noticed people writing "granduncle" as one word. I'm used to seeing it as two words: "grand uncle." I keep reading it being pronounced gran-dun-cle.

No! Don't polish your coin collection! It can ruin the finish and decrease their value.

Most of these books only transport the protagonist in time, not place (or least not very far in place; just a few miles). This one takes Denise from Tennessee to Pennsylvania.

I purposely planned this review to be on June 19: Emancipation Day.

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

Some other possible endings: seeing the different ways people react to freedom prompts Denise to wonder about her relative and consequently her immediate family, who she misses and wants to return home to; in one of those endings Denise's mother return home just in time for her father's Skype call; another has her talking with her grandfather about coin's original owner; attending a meeting with the Quaker Aid Society helps Denise feel grateful for what she has and shows her how people can work together to make things better; making a square for a large quilt helps give Denise a sense of community; talking with Addy and other freed slaves about how they don't always know where their biological family is, and how they readily accept people as honorary members of their family gets Denise thinking about important her family is to her; helping make items to auction off for a benefit to help escaped slaves (the quilt was another) gives Denise perspective on her own difficulties and how it's better to work to improve a situation rather just complain about it.


Song of the Mockingbird: My Journey with Josefina

Published in 2015; author Emma Carlson Berne; illustrators Julie Kolesova and Michael Dwornik, one image credited to qingwa/iStock/Thinkstock

"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. Since it would sound to weird to me to summarize the story as, "and then (Historical Characters) and I saw a..." I've been using the author's first name as the main character's name. However, this book mentions that the main character's nickname is Birdy.


Birdy is Not Happy. Her family just moved from Chicago to Santa Fe, and she desperately misses her old home. Trying to snap Birdy out of her funk, her dad takes her on a walk in the high desert. Birdy finds an ancient bird-shaped flute, which her father suggests she hold onto until they can have a museum examine it. Later in her room, Birdy idly plays a song she heard a mockingbird sing, and suddenly she finds herself outside, but her house is gone. In its place is a house of a much older style. The paved roads are gone, and instead of seeing her neighbors' dogs, she sees a herd of goats. Birdy decides she's dreaming. She's further convinced of this when a girl comes out of the house and speaks to her in Spanish, but Birdy (who took a bit of Spanish lessons a year ago) understands her perfectly--and can respond in Spanish just as easily. The girl introduces herself as Josefina Montoya, and chalks up Birdy's confusion to a blow to the head; she has a bruise and dust there. Josefina takes Birdy inside her home for some chamomile tea, which should help her feel better. Josefina insists that Birdy rest, and unrolls a sheepskin sleeping mat for her. Birdy obediently lays down, but once she's alone, she plays the mockingbird tune on the flute: back to the present, where no time has passed.

First choice: stay in the present or go back to Josefina's time? Well, I'm not falling for that again, not after Caroline's journey. Peaking ahead, staying in the present ends the book with Birdy feeling grateful for her family and realizing that home is where the heart is. So back in time it is, then.

Not long after returning to the past, Birdy is called to lunch with Josefina's family. They inquire about how to reunite Birdy with her family, and her unsure and cryptic responses lead them to conclude she's a cautiva--stolen from her home by an enemy tribe and now escaped. Josefina's father makes plans to inquire about families whose daughters were taken (probably long ago, from how confused Birdy seems about her family) and sends a servant to scout the area for signs of Birdy's captors. When the servant gives the all-clear. Josefina suggests she take Birdy around the property to show her some of their daily life in hopes of jogging her memory (they've concluded Birdy's family is Spanish like theirs, rather than any native tribe).

Next choice: collect squash from the garden or explore the nearby hills

While harvesting the squashes, Josefina tells Birdy about her life on the rancho. It sounds mostly happy, but when Birdy asks about Josefina's mother, Josefina explains that her mother died two years ago, and although she has much to be grateful for, she misses her mother terribly. Josefina remarks that Birdy has lost something dear as well, meaning her whole family, but Birdy thinks of how she misses her friends and home in Chicago. Josefina continues, saying that the two of them have been brought together by destiny: they've both lost things that they can't bring back (Birdy's old home/what Josefina thinks is part of her childhood with her family) but they have found a friend in each other. Back at the rancho, Birdy enjoys watching the Josefina and her sisters banter as they prepare the squash. Soon it's dinnertime, and after they eat, Josefina and her sisters reminisce about their mother. They mention the beautiful altar cloth she embroidered, and the memory book their Tia Dolores is helping them write. Josefina asks Birdy if she'd like to see one of them.

Next choice: see the memory book or the altar cloth

Josefina and her sisters share their precious memories with Birdy, the songs she sang and things she taught them written down so they can't be forgotten. One blank page has an ink stain, and Josefina suggests Birdy draw her home, if she can remember it. Birdy draws her old apartment building, set in the Chicago skyline. But she's not used to using ink and quill, so the drawing isn't as clear as the picture in her mind. It's just as well, because Josefina is able to see it as a rancho rather than a modern city. Josefina's father announces that he'll go to Santa Fe in the morning. Josefina and Birdy can go with him to inquire about lost girls, or they can stay at the rancho to prepare for the harvest festival.

Next choice: stay at the rancho or go to Santa Fe

Josefina wakes Birdy early the next morning for chores. After a while, Tia Dolores mentions she has some things for Tia Magdalena. The girls can go there or to Sr. Sanchez's for another errand.

Next choice: Tia Magdalena or Sr. Sanchez

At Tia Magdalena's home, Birdy is able to let out some of her bottled up emotions, feeling much better after a cathartic cry. She realizes she's been throwing herself a pity party, and resolves to give Santa Fe an actual chance to feel like home. After some time, the girls head back to the rancho for the party.

Next choice: at the party, to get some food or dance

As Birdy takes in the gaiety around her, she realizes she's happy and content. She doesn't need Chicago to be happy; she needs the people she cares about and who care about her. It's time to go home. She tells Josefina that she now knows she can get back to her family. Josefina doesn't really understand, but she trusts her friend. The girls part ways, Birdy feeling ready to embrace her new home.

About Josefina's Time

When this story takes place, New Mexico had only recently opened up a trade route with the United States (it still belonged to Mexico). Santa Fe was a bustling trade city, not only for the descendants of Spanish settlers and the Americans, but native tribes.


Dedicated to "my dad--with whom I've shared many adventures."

Birdy's move from Chicago meant she had to give her part as the lead in Annie. I would feel terrible if I had to do that to one of my kids. There's no mention of why the move was made at the time it was. I assume a job opened up, but I'd be very tempted to try to stay long enough to let my kid be the lead in a play if it were at all possible.

There's a line about Birdy not having known that New Mexico was in the US, and that's a surprisingly common misconception even among adults. Some adults also don't realize that Hawaii and Alaska are part of the US, or the territories like Puerto Rico.

But at the same time, while I know plenty of adults have the same "There's a New Mexico?" reaction, I don't quite get why "chiles" and "tortillas" and "tamales" are italicized as if they're totally alien concepts. Birdy's from Chicago in 2015. Chicago has lots of restaurants with lots of styles of food.

The flute is engraved with a name, Maria. Josefina and her sisters assume that's Birdy's name, and she doesn't correct them.

Although Birdy doesn't seem to be very religious (she's caught off guard by some of Josefina's actions, like saying grace before a meal), she finds some value in spirituality.

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

Some other possible endings: seeing the altar cloth and how the family worked together to preserve the memory and hard work of their mother makes Josefina realize that her family is loving and supportive whether they're in Chicago or Santa Fe; going to Santa Fe can end in a side trip to Josefina's grandparents' home, which reinforces the value of family and helps Birdy see Santa Fe as her new home, and embrace the opportunities it presents; or it can lead Birdy to a bustling trading center, showing her that Santa Fe is every bit as lively as Chicago and also reminding her of how much she loves her family (when someone wants to trade for her flute); Santa Fe can also be where Josefina sees one of her friends which leads Birdy to embrace the friendship a girl at her school has been offering; seeing how making friends with Josefina didn't lessen the friendships she made in Chicago encourages Birdy to reach out to a girl at her new school; an expedition into the surrounding hills can lead to an encounter with a mountain lion which results in the baby goat Sombrita being injured and healed by Tia Magadalena, which prompts Birdy to trust her parents that Santa Fe will be a good thing for their family, just as Josefina trusts her elders; or the mountain lion encounter can be resolved with a few well-aimed rocks that Josefina throws and the adventure as a whole instills an appreciation for the beauty of the high desert which Birdy carries with her when she returns home; a couple other storylines also help Birdy remember that her family is her priority; or that making new friends and enjoying new experiences doesn't mean the old friends and experiences are worthless.


Catch the Wind: My Journey with Caroline

Published in 2014; 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.


Kathleen is feeling overwhelmed. Her mother recently joined the Navy is about to ship out for eight months. Her father has a job too, so her parents keep talking about grown-up Kathleen will have to be. But her five-year-old twin sisters aren't being told to do extra work. Kathleen feels like she's not being allowed to be worried or scared because her parents are "counting on her," as they keep reminding her. After an outburst of emotion from Kathleen, her mother talks with her about sense of duty to her country, and also to her family. She tries to reassure Kathleen that she'll never go a moment without thinking of her family back home. And she has a gift for Kathleen: a compass that has been passed down through the generations since the War of 1812. She got it from her own father the first time he shipped out with the Navy, and now she's giving it to Kathleen. Kathleen doesn't really grasp the full impact of her new heirloom, but she can tell it's important to her mother. Sensing that Kathleen needs some space, her mother leaves. Then the compass arrow points straight toward Kathleen's heart, and she starts to feel dizzy...

And she finds herself in a new place. A voice from nearby asks if she's also looking for warships. Confused, Kathleen asks for clarification. A girl her age is briefly befuddled as to why Kathleen doesn't know what's going on, but introduces herself as Caroline Abbott and fills Kathleen in on the battle that happened the day before, remarking that 1812 will be an interesting year. Presuming Kathleen to be traveling alone, Caroline invites Kathleen to follow her to her home. But Kathleen is understandably worried that she might not be able to get REALLY home. She grabs the compass and points the arrow away from her heart. The dizziness returns, and Kathleen is back in her own time.

First choice: stay in the present or go back to the past

Kathleen's head is swimming. She reflects on how many men must have joined the Navy during the War of 1812, and how hard it must be on Caroline, who mentioned her father was taken captive. Kathleen's mother is very unlikely to be kidnapped from a ship in the ocean. And with today's modern technology, she can talk with family over Skype and send emails. They'll be able to stay connected better than people deployed in the past. And they can plan a vacation for when she gets back at the start of summer break.

And that's the end. So...I'm going back and picking the second option of returning to the past!

Caroline takes Kathleen to her father's shipyard, which her mother is running in his absence. Her mother is understandably cautious, but when Caroline explains her suspicions (while Kathleen is getting some water just outside the office) that Kathleen's father is in the Navy and Kathleen is alone, her mother agrees that Kathleen can stay with them for a few days. A Navy lieutenant arrives, asking directions to a secluded cove Caroline's father spoke of. Caroline's mother is unsure of its exact location and too busy to leave the shipyard. Caroline volunteers to sail with the lieutenant, and once securing a promise that the crew will do all it can to ensure Caroline's safety, her mother acquiesces. Caroline turns to Kathleen: does she want to come?

Next choice: go on the Navy ship or stay in the shipyard

Kathleen is simultaneously overwhelmed and awestruck by the Navy ship. They're sailing on Lake Ontario, heading for the cove. She sees the earnestness with which everyone moves, even a boy about seven years old getting water for the older men (Caroline mentions some of the "ship's boys" are orphans who are glad to not only have a job and place to stay, but an important purpose). She notes the US flag flying on the ship has only a few stars. She alone on the ship knows that the US will survive the War of 1812, and add thirty-five more stars to its flag. She feels a swell of pride that mother and grandfather and others back in her family line have served the country, starting with this conflict. As the ship arrives at the cove, a sailor spots a British warship. The lieutenant orders a sailor to take Kathleen and Caroline ashore, but Caroline counters that doing so will waste precious time--they need to stop the warship.

Next choice: agree with Caroline or agree with the lieutenant

Kathleen agrees, enthusiastically encouraging the sailors to chase the British ship away. The sailors quickly give chase, and Caroline voices her hope that they capture the enemy sailors. Kathleen regrets her decision: she thought they were just going to scare the British off. But it's too late now; the ship is pitching forward and the sailors are gearing up for a battle. Would it be better to stay safe below deck or is watching the action worth it?

Next choice: go below deck or stay above

The girls duck below deck, out of the way of the busy sailors. One runs by them, calling out that they ship's boy is missing. Without him, the sailors will have to fetch their own gunpowder, slowing their progress in the battle. It's then that Caroline hears a whimpering sound: the ship's boy. The girls find him, crying. It's his first battle, and so much more intense than he expected. Caroline and Kathleen help him collect himself, and as he shows them the gunpowder store and explains his duties, his training comes to back him, along with his confidence. He rushes gunpowder up to the waiting sailors, while Kathleen and Caroline wait out of the way, in the ship's kitchen. After a bit, the cannon fire ceases, and the girls can hear the sailors cheering. The lieutenant finds the girls, visibly relieved that they're unharmed. He confirms that they've captured the British ship, and tells the girls to remain in the kitchen while they sail back to the shipyard. When they're alone again, Kathleen remarks that Caroline's dad is going to be very proud of her for helping the ship's boy, and thus all the sailors. She then reflects that she'll be able to help her own father while her mother's away in the Navy. Her parents usually have date nights on Wednesdays; maybe she can suggest that they do something special on Wednesdays until her mother returns. And one of her younger sisters loves to paint; Kathleen could paint with her. Her other sister has nightmares--Kathleen will leave her door open so she can hear if her sister is scared in the middle of the night.

When they return to the shipyard, Kathleen bids Caroline goodbye. She returns to her own time, and finds her mom. She tells her mom that she understands how important her work in the Navy is, and that she knows she'll do a great job on the ship. Kathleen's mom is very touched by this. Kathleen also promises she'll mind the home front--keeping people's spirits up is important whether it's in the midst of battle or at home.

About Caroline's Time

This section puts the story in its historical context, noting how many women had to take over men's traditional roles, such as running businesses or even aiding the war effort, when their husbands were away fighting or captured or killed.


Dedicated to the readers in Sacketts Harbor for "giving Caroline--and me--such a warm welcome."

One of my friends is in the Navy, and about to leave for a nine-month deployment. But unlike Kathleen's mother, she won't be on a ship; while she's in the medical profession like Kathleen's mom, she'll be in a hospital on dry land.

Something I only recently realized: with the exception of the species called musk ox, and ox isn't a separate kind of cattle from cows. It's a cow used for things like plowing and pulling, often a castrated male. I don't spend much time on farms, and reading books like Farmer Boy I sort of thought of them as separate from dairy and beef cows, but they're the same species, just used as beasts of burden rather than food sources. I feel silly for not realizing it before! I go to the state fair almost every year, and there are never oxen displayed with other livestock--and they even have cavies and rabbits. Surely if an ox were a separate animal there would be some competing for ribbons.

I know part of the convention of these books is that the reader is supposed to be able to insert themselves easily, so the main character isn't named. But it makes them seem a little rude when they never introduce themselves!

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

Some other possible endings: getting off the Navy ship before the battle can lead to Caroline revealing that her mother's in the Navy (which Caroline of course takes to mean that her mother is disguised as man, because it's 1812) and Caroline asking Kathleen to tell her mother that's she's proud and impressed, which Kathleen realize she hasn't told her own mother that she's proud of her, or her father for putting on a brave face when he's worried about his wife; staying on deck during the battle can give Kathleen the chance to use her twenty-first century first aid training to help a wounded soldier, which inspires her to volunteer at a hospital to keep her mind occupied while her mother's away; spotting a British warship from the land and alerting the Navy (rather than chasing themselves) can lead Kathleen to realize that she wants to be more responsible and take on more duties at home; going on a raid of an island held by the British and finding a British girl their age but letting her remain hidden can cause Kathleen to reflect on how her mother might have agonized over her decision to join the Navy, balancing her sense of duty to her family and her sense of duty to her country, leading to a new-found respect for her mother; or reluctantly escorting the girl to the victorious Americans, who refuse to take women or girls captive and send the girl back to her mother, shows Kathleen how brave the girl is and how strongly she wants to support her family, inspiring her to help her family; Kathleen's adventure can show her to think of others and how to help her family rather than getting wrapped up in her sadness; helping an injured man write a letter to his family can remind Kathleen how much she truly loves her own; getting overturned in Lake Ontario and facing her fear of deep water can give Kathleen confidence; briefly getting a job at a boarding house (which Caroline takes over on a part-time basis when Kathleen reveals she must return home) gives Kathleen a good work ethic; helping a young girl whose mother is too ill to work and whose father is an alcoholic gives Kathleen a new perspective on her family, which isn't perfect, but is functional and loving.