A Brighter Tomorrow: My Journey with Julie

Published in 2014; author Megan McDonald; 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've been using the author's first name, in this case, Megan.


Megan is looking around her new room, in a San Francisco apartment. For now, it's just Megan, her younger brother, and their mom. Her dad is staying behind in Cincinnati for some training classes, in hopes that he'll be able to get a job in California like Megan's mom did. But Megan and her younger brother are concerned that their parents' marriage is failing. Megan misses her friends back home, and misses her dad more.

She notices the bench under the window lifts up to reveal a storage compartment. Aside from the cobwebs and dust, there are a few things from someone who lived there before: a rainbow headband, a 1975 half dollar, a peace sign earring, nail clippers, and a mood ring. Idly, Megan slips the mood ring on, and suddenly the whole room changes. Megan is suddenly very aware that this is not her apartment, although she doesn't understand what happened. She just knows she needs to get out before the people who do live there get back.

The bottom level of the building is a thrift shop now. A calendar shows what happened: somehow the mood ring transport Megan back to the apartment building in 1975. A girl Megan's age comes over, Julie Albright, and asks if Megan is looking for anything in particular. Megan buys a small charm with her 1975 coin, and she and Julie quickly bond over the mood ring (after all, Julie has one just like it, somewhere in her room...) and basketball. Julie's mother, who owns the store, tells Julie she needs to get ready to go to her dad's. Embarrassed, Julie whispers that her parents are divorced (it's far more rare in 1975) and that her teenaged sister doesn't always come to see their dad. Megan wants to do something to cheer Julie up.

First choice: suggest a visit to the beach or think of something else

The closest beach is currently dealing with a garbage problem, and the girls figure they can do their part to clean it up. Megan privately wonders if the beach is still there in her time or if it's been built up with construction. Megan and Julie aren't the only ones helping clean up the beach. They're happy to see other volunteers picking up various items, although even when their bags are full to bulging, there's still so much litter. Julie thinks she recognizes a sunbather: it's her sister Tracy, with her friend Mike. But Tracy told Ms. Albright that she was studying at the library. Julie goes to confront her sister, but is blown off. As Tracy and Mike leave, they whisper something to each other and laugh, then offer to carry the trash bags to the parking lot. Megan and Julie hand over their bags but don't feel right about the encounter.

Next choice: keep cleaning up or go after Tracy and Mike

The girls distract themselves by seeing who can find the most interesting thing as they continue to clean the beach. A strong contender emerges: a sea otter pup is tangled in some tough plastic trash. Julie and Megan signal for other volunteers to get the animal rescue group nearby, and rush to make sure the pup won't drown. Thinking quickly, Megan takes the nail clippers from her pocket and snips away the offending litter. The pup doesn't move much, appearing to be weak from its ordeal. Soon an animal rescue is on hand, and wraps the pup carefully in a towel. They carry the pup to a calmer part of the beach, and are elated to hear its mother calling for it. The pup wriggles out of the towel swims to its mother. Megan promises herself that she'll spend more time with her brother and teach him the importance of helping the planet.

About Julie's Time

Although the 1970s was relatively recent, a lot has changed since then. Girls and women were discouraged from participating in sports until legislation required them to be treated the same as boys and men in academic settings (obviously this doesn't always happen, but Title IX has made things easier). Environmentalism was also fairly new; curbside recycling wasn't a thing yet, and the Endangered Species Act was only passed in 1972.


Dedicated to Jordana.

Maybe Megan's best friend doesn't care, but I'd rather not have a nickname that sounds like "cloaca." That's the term for the opening some animals have that serves as the entrance and exit for reproductive purposes as well as elimination of urine and feces (monotremes, for example; the term means "one hole"). Chloe --> Chlo-coa Puff.

Megan's clothes don't magically become era-appropriate, but they're not too far off. She ends up just looking unstylish rather than completely out of place.

This story takes place just before Julie makes the school basketball team.

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

Some other possible endings: helping Julie and Tracy see that they're both hurting from the divorce but if they help each other they'll heal faster shows Megan that she should be more open to her own younger brother; playing a boys vs girls basketball game with Julie and Tracy can inspire Megan to be more kind to her younger brother; it can also show her the importance of good sportsmanship and trying your best no matter what the odds; or it can inspire Megan to be more confident; the confidence can also translate into Megan being more willing to admit to her brother that she's scared too, rather than trying to put on a brave face for him (he sees right through her anyway, and desperately wants to talk about things); opening up to Julie about having trouble fitting in at school can encourage Megan that she and her best friend in Cincinnati can stay friends, and that not everyone at her new school is a jerk; standing up for Julie against some bullies convinces Megan to try making new friends; helping Julie smooth over an argument she had with her best friend gets Megan thinking she needs to reach out more to her best friend in Cincinnati


Music in My Heart: My Journey with Melody

Published in 2016; author Erin Falligant with Denise Lewis Patrick; illustrators Julie Kolesova and Michael Dwornik; author photos by Reverie Photography and Fran Balter Photography

"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, and since I "borrowed" Erin Falligant's name more recently, I'll use Denise.


Denise is at piano practice, feeling uninspired. But when her teacher has her play "Lift Every Voice and Sing" the song makes her nostalgic for her recently deceased grandmother. As she plays, Denise feels more caught up in the music than she ever has before. When the song is finished, Denise is shocked to see she's in a church building rather than her piano instructor's home. A girl her age is there, awed by Denise's song. She introduces herself as Melody, and says that if Denise doesn't mind, Melody will go upstairs to get her grandmother, who would love to hear the song. Melody also mentions the Civil Rights march advertised on a poster as being last summer, meaning Denise is in 1964. Denise obliges, and performing the song again transports her back to piano lessons. The second Denise gets home, she takes the sheet music to her own piano--she can't wait to get back to Melody's time. Once there, Melody thinks Denise is waiting for the Student March to Freedom Club, which her sister Yvonne leads, while Melody's grandmother assumes Denise is part of the traveling youth choir visiting the church.

First choice: agree with Melody's grandmother or with Melody

Denise follows Melody's grandmother, Mrs. Porter, up the stairs only to find out that the tour bus already left. It will be back in a few days, though. Melody suggests that Denise stay in town, and Mrs. Porter agrees to open her home to her. At Mrs. Porter's, Denise is impressed by a beautiful upright piano, and Mrs. Porter hands her some more inspirational music. Melody sings along while Denise plays. Melody's older brother Dwayne happens by, and joins the concert. Denise is soon awestruck when she learns he's a Motown singer, and that Melody has sung backup vocals for him. Real professional singers! Dwayne invites the girls to a recording session, but they had already made plans to accompany Mrs. Porter to a concert hall for a gospel music performance.

Next choice: stick with the original plan or go to the recording session

While the recording session would be amazing, Denise keeps thinking of her own grandmother and how much Mrs. Porter reminds her of the woman she misses so much. After dinner with Melody's grandparents, who both invite Denise to call them by the names their grandchildren use (Big Momma and Poppa), they head for the performance hall. The concert is every bit as awe-inspiring as the recording session might have been, especially with their seats so close to the stage (Poppa claimed to be "too tired" to attend the concert, letting Denise have his ticket). But when the last notes fade, the owners of the venue mention something about this being their last concert--the building is due to be demolished for urban renewal. The owners live there; they'll have to move in with their daughter for the time being. Denise thinks that her father, a congressman, could surely help...then remembers she's about fifty years in the past. But maybe she can do something. She stays up most of the night thinking about the issue, as does Melody (who also spends the night at her grandparents'). In the morning, Big Momma suggests that the girls could go with Melody's aunt and uncle to Windsor, Ontario for the Emancipation Day celebration.

Next choice: try to help the concert venue's owners or go to Windsor

Reasoning that they won't feel right celebrating when there are immediate problems at home, Denise and Melody decline the trip. They go to Melody's house, where her older sister Yvonne has an idea. She says the protest group she heads can encircle the building, preventing its demolition. Mrs. Ellison is worried that such a spur-of-the-moment protest will be too dangerous, especially when the opposition has bulldozers.

Next choice: do the demonstration or think of another way to be heard

When Yvonne takes the girls to the building the next morning, they join a large crowd of protesters. Several police officers are on hand, warning them that standing in the way of city business could get them arrested (some officers look reluctant to do so, and are clearly hoping for a peaceful resolution). Sure enough, Yvonne and some teenagers are eventually led to a police van. Melody rushes toward her sister, and she and Denise are separated. It's all too much for Denise. She finds someone who can get a message to Melody (she'd already told Melody she was going home after the protest) and slips inside the building to play the song on the piano that remains inside. When she's back in the present, she rushes to her mother, who happens to be her school's principal and had mentioned that the music program would suffer due to budget cuts. Denise tells her that music is worth fighting for, and they can't just give up. They have to take a stand and try.

About Melody’s Time

Nearly everyone knows about high-profile Civil Rights leaders like Martin Luther King, Jr, but he and others were bolstered by the support of ordinary citizens. Even young children joined the cause: six-year-old Ruby Bridges was the first black student to attend a white school in the South, and despite death threats, didn't miss a single day of first grade. Nine-year-old Audrey Faye Hendricks attended a Civil Rights event in Birmingham and consequently spent a week in jail. She was one of several hundred children at the "Children's Crusade" who marched because their parents faced backlash from the racist employers.


Dedicated to "Mark, who understands the power of music."

The keys on the Porters'  piano are more yellow than white. I think the 1964 keys are ivory; a lot of older pianos used ivory.

Assuming Denise goes back in time to the same month and Windsor's Emancipation Day celebration is around the same time now as it was in 1964, this story mostly takes place in early August.

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

Some other possible endings: Denise can meet Rosa Parks who encourages her to speak out in order to get more books by African-American authors in the library; seeing how Melody's friends and family never give up or give in as they strive for equality inspires Denise to speak out against even small injustices; it can also push Denise to want to improve her city by working with her politician father; making new friends and working together to a greater goal can help Denise feel less shy back in her own time; seeing Melody's brother pulled over for "driving while black" can make Denise think about role models and how it's more important to emulate people's good character rather than their fame; organizing a fundraiser in 1964 gives Denise the idea to do the same to help the struggling music program at school; attending the celebration in Canada can show Denise that she can trust herself; or that even though physical buildings like the concert venue might not last, the intangible things that Civil Rights workers are striving for can last forever if they're cherished; 


The Sky's the Limit: My Journey with Maryellen

Published in 2015; author Valerie Tripp; 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've been using the author's first name, but in this book  the main character is explicitly named Sophie.


When a stopwatch button sends Sophie back in time to 1955, she couldn't be more relieved. in 2015, Sophie had just won a downhill skiing race only to be accused of cheating by her twin sister Emma. If Sophie did take the wrong route, it was an honest mistake, but the penetrating glares of her teammates were too much for her. She pushes the button again and is instantly back in the exact same second. Reasoning that she can leave for as along as she wants and not miss any time in the present, she escapes the scrutiny for the sunny front lawn she'd been standing by. A girl her age introduces herself as Maryellen Larkin, accompanied by her younger brother and sister. Maryellen assumes Sophie is a new neighbor, but her sister Beverly thinks she's the expected daughter of a family friend.

First choice: agree with Maryellen or agree with Beverly

Sophie says she's just come here from North Carolina, which is true in a way. And still in her snowsuit, at that (another book where the main character's clothes don't automatically change). Maryellen assumes that Sophie's moving in, and the moving van hasn't arrived. Since Sophie is from eastern North Carolina and hasn't seen the ocean yet, Maryellen gets Sophie a clean dress from her older sister (though they're the same age, Maryellen is smaller than Sophie) and suggests they walk the two blocks to the beach. Sophie tries to decline at first because the dress is too nice, and suggests that short and a t-shirt might be better. Beverly says that she can't wear shorts to school the next day (she's assuming that the "moving truck" won't have arrived and Sophie will have to wear her sister's clothes). It's then that Sophie sees a calendar: November 1955. Sophie takes a moment to collect her thoughts and get over the shock. She knows she can return whenever she wants, and right now she wants to see what else is in store. She sees the Atlantic for the first time. As Sophie watches Maryellen interact with her younger siblings, she wonders if trying to do the things Emma's interested in has backfired. Maybe Emma wants some space from her twin sometimes. Maryellen, full of energy and rarely pausing her chatter, mentions having had polio at a younger age, which might explain her smaller size (it weakened one of her legs and her lungs). She also reminisces about an embarrassing time when she froze on stage at a fundraiser she organized. Sophie is impressed at how Maryellen seems to take it all in stride. Back at the Larkins', Sophie is invited to spend the night since the next day is only a half day. She can pretend to call "home" for permission, but should she stay?

Next choice: go home or stay at Maryellen's

(I'm going to rebel against my arbitrary rule and pick the second choice. The first one has Sophie return to the present and speak up for herself, saying that she honestly thought she was following the correct race path. Emma apologizes for assuming the worst and the sisters make up.)

After dinner and dessert, Sophie shows Maryellen some constellations. Astronomy is her biggest passion, and the night sky is much clearer at Daytona Beach in 1955. Sophie also gets an idea to help Maryellen with her stage fright concerns. Maryellen has a presentation at school the next day, on what she's thankful for about Daytona Beach (Thanksgiving is in two days). Instead of presenting on car races, she can cut out the shapes of constellations, turn out the lights in the room, and shine a flashlight through the cut outs to make the constellations appear on the ceiling. It will look very clever, and in the dark Maryellen won't have to worry about people staring at her. The presentation goes very well, and Sophie learns a bit about herself at school too (she's allowed stay for the half day despite not having registered yet as the teacher assumes her family will take care of that after the Thanksgiving break). Since she knows what will happen in the next sixty years, she stands up to classmate of Maryellen's who says no one will ever make it to the moon, and women will never go in space. Sophie doesn't usually speak up, but her new friends at school support her, giving her confidence (making friends is new too; she usually tags along with Emma's friends). Some other students present on famous people from Daytona Beach. This prompts Sophie to wonder what stories her grandmother, a former archaeologist, has. Sophie resolves to ask her at her next opportunity.

Next choice: go home or stay in 1955

(Stop it Maryellen. I have to rebel again! Going home just has Sophie briefly unsure where to start with her grandmother, and deciding to do what Maryellen does: ask a million questions.)

On the way back from school, the girls notice a contest: design a logo for a new plant shop and win $25 (just over $226 today). Maryellen is determined to enter. The girls talk in Maryellen's room while she sketches out designs. Maryellen shares the room with her sisters. Emma recently moved into Sophie's room, when their grandmother came to live with them, and the new rooming arrangement is part of the tension the sisters have. Maryellen is a sympathetic ear to Sophie's concerns, and gives a few pieces of advice. Maryellen's sister Carolyn has forgotten her dance tickets for the school sock hop, so Sophie and Maryellen walk them to the school, stopping by the flower shop along the way to enter the contest. A bit later, the remaining Larkins head for the beach. Sophie swims a little, but spends more of her time keeping the younger Larkins busy (which is fine with her; she's a little scared of the ocean). Maybe she can baby-sit to earn money for that telescope she wants... When they get home, Maryellen gets a call: she won the contest! Seeing Maryellen get what she wants through hard work and determination helps Sophie see she can work to her goals too, and now she's confident enough to follow through with them.

Next choice: stay in the past or go home (thank you, book)

The next morning, the family is busy getting things as ready as they can for the Thanksgiving meal the next day. Mr. Larkin's boss is coming, so he's nervous. Mr. Larkin suggests he take the children to Cypress Gardens so Mrs. Larkin can work unimpeded.

Next choice: stay and finish the chores so Mrs. Larkin can get a break too or see the theme park

When Sophie suggests that Mrs. Larkin should go see the botanical garden and water ski races she mentioned enjoying, Maryellen readily agrees that her mother deserves a vacation too. There's not really that much to do, anyway; just take the turkey out of the oven when the timer goes off and give Maryellen's baby brother some ice for his sore gums (he's teething) if he wakes up. The girls also decide to make some Thanksgiving decorations. While they don't manage to burn the turkey, they aren't quite as careful as they could be, and both Maryellen's dog and the boss's dog eat a turkey leg. Mr. Larkin takes everyone out for dinner at a restaurant, and the boss and his wife end up being surprisingly lively. At first, Maryellen and Sophie assumed they were a bit stuck up, but they were only literally stiff from sunburn. This gets Sophie thinking about her grandmother, and how she may have misjudged her. Sophie says goodbye to Maryellen, explaining that her family isn't moving in after all, and returns to the present. She defends herself to her coach, explaining that she didn't cheat. When Emma apologizes for her accusation, Sophie says she's going to quit the ski team. Emma misunderstands at first, thinking Sophie doesn't want to do anything with her, but Sophie explains that she wants to do things they both enjoy...like maybe decorating the house for Thanksgiving. Sophie also asks her grandmother if she wants to invite her friend over. She wants to get to know more about her grandmother.

About Maryellen's Time

While the 1950s were easier than the 1930s in many ways, they were far from perfect. There were few opportunities for women who wanted to work outside the home, and the start of the civil rights era was still a decade away.


Dedicated to "Jennifer Hirsch, with love and thanks."

Sophie is transported not only in time, but also in place: she starts out on a North Carolina mountaintop.

The page numbers are screwed up for at least one of the choice options.

Since Maryellen says it's two days before Thanksgiving and and it's 1955, we know Sophie arrives on November 22, 1955. Happy birthday to my grandmother!

It's too bad the Gemini wouldn't have been visible when Sophie is showing Maryellen different constellations. Gemini = the twins.

Several storylines show Sophie that she's a natural with kids.

The devices that transport the characters in time must have an effect on the people they meet; the Larkins don't question Sophie not being with her family in Thanksgiving.

The stylized snowflakes that mark scene breaks in the book look a lot like the sculpture outside the Air and Space Museum in Washington, DC. I assume that's on purpose; not only does Sophie love astronomy, Maryellen's other books talk a lot about the Space Race (giant picture!):

Interesting and random coincidence: a friend of mine has two daughters (not twins). Sophie and Emma.

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

Some other possible endings: going to Cypress Gardens can inspire Sophie to connect deeper with her grandmother, and also show her that doing something a friend likes (like skiing) can be worthwhile if both people focus on the friendship; going on a trip with the Larkins (who thinks she needs a ride to Washington, DC) can give Sophie the confidence she needs to speak up for integrity back at the ski race; it can also give her the confidence to tell Emma that she doesn't like skiing and they can find other activities to enjoy together; a visit with Maryellen's grandparents along the way can help Sophie appreciate her grandmother; in one storyline she enlists her grandmother's help to prove her innocence (her grandmother did archaeology, and sees where a fallen branch obscured the race route); Sophie can also prove her innocence on her own and after Emma apologizes and they talk about how spend quality time with each other rather than just quantity time, the two get to know their grandmother better together; taking the Larkins to a great viewing place for the lunar eclipse she knows is coming gets Sophie to talk to with Emma about how the next summer, she's going to astronomy camp--they can have their own interests and not lose any of their closeness.


Full Speed Ahead: My Journey with Kit

Published in 2014; author Valerie Tripp; 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, Valerie.


Valerie's procrastinating her essay, due tomorrow, by looking through her recent thrift store finds. Her mom won't be home until after dinner and the sitter is "busy" texting, so Valerie is pretty much on her own in the spacious and luxurious apartment. One of the cooler items Valerie has is an old film camera. She looks through the viewfinder and pretends to take a picture...only to suddenly find herself outside in a place she's never been, next to a puppy. A girl her age introduces herself as Kit Kittredge, and presumes that Valerie is the dog's owner..and also the cousin her family's been expecting. The puppy seems to like Valerie well enough that she may as well let it tag along for now.

First choice: go into Kit's house with her or admit you're not the cousin

Upon entering Kit's house, Valerie spots a newspaper dated September 1, 1933.

Next choice: stay in 1933 or return to 2014

Kit's parents introduce Valerie to the boarders at the breakfast table, explaining that she's the great-niece of Uncle Hendrik. Valerie's pretty confused and consequently a bit awkward, but goes along with the story. When Kit's mother and a boarder go to fix up the room Valerie will stay in, the puppy follows. Valerie quickly catches the dog, and overhears the boarder expressing concern that Mr. and Mrs. Kittredge are giving up their room for a spoiled little girl! Mrs. Kittredge counters that Valerie is probably just shy and overwhelmed, and furthermore, they need her. Feeling more awkward, Valerie talks to Kit, wondering if she should help with chores or maybe share Kit's room instead of kicking Kit's parents out of theirs. Kits says that Valerie is to be their guest, and if she's not treated as one, Uncle Hendrik might not pay them. Valerie is confused: pay them? Blushing a bit, Kit confides that her father lost his job because of the Great Depression, and even with the boarders, the family is in desperate need of money.

Next choice: agree to be a guest or insist on helping

Valerie doesn't want to make waves. Besides, she doesn't know much about housework anyway. But she can do a few things, like clear the breakfast dishes, and keep Kit company while Kit does her chores. Valerie is able to help a bit with the laundry, rescuing a wool sweater from being washed too roughly, which would have shrunk it. When Mrs. Kittredge sees both girls in dampened clothes (from the laundry), she suggests they catch a trolley to Uncle Hendrik's house, where it's assumed Valerie sent her luggage. Of course, there's no luggage there, and if Uncle Hendrik remembers what his real great-niece looks like, he'll be pretty confused who the impostor is.

Next choice: avoid going to Uncle Hendrik's or see what happens at his house

Thinking quickly, Valerie says there's no need to go to Uncle Hendrik's. Her suitcase won't be arriving yet. Kit offers Valerie her best outfit to wear while her own clothes dry. Valerie knows she won't be careful enough with it, and asks instead to put together something from Kit's more worn clothes. She creates a great outfit, and is eager to look through a box full of other clothes, but just before she can suggest it, Kit says they ought to take that box to the soup kitchen to donate. When they arrive, Valerie is stunned by the long line of people, including children and babies, dressed in literal rags. She knows there are homeless people in modern times, but she's never seen such desperation all in one place. The soup kitchen coordinator directs Kit and Valerie to a group of four girls, sisters who lost all but the clothes on their backs in a fire. Valerie is worried they'll seem stuck up by giving the old clothes to the girls, but Kit shows her that just being straightforward and not condescending or pitying helps smooth over any awkwardness. Plus, Valerie brought the puppy, whose antics delight the sisters. Valerie thinks that the camera must have sent her back to show her that while she is often lonely (in addition to her mother being gone at work a lot, she's an only child and her friends aren't able to visit often), she has a lot to be grateful for. And because of her monetary position, she can do a lot to help people.

Next choice: return to the present or stay with Kit

Valerie says goodbye to Kit, explaining that she needs to go back to her own family. She then finds the soup kitchen coordinator, and asks if the puppy would be welcome there. The coordinator says that her family would be thrilled to have a dog, and the puppy can come with her whenever she has a shift, to give the people there a little bit of distraction and happiness, as it did for the sisters. Stepping out of sight, Valerie clicks the shutter and returns to her room. She looks around at the excess and mess, and starts cleaning right away. She finishes just as her mom arrives home, and surprises her mother by declining an offer for a cup of tea, explaining that she has to finish her schoolwork. Valerie's mother says she can wait a bit for the tea. She'd love to talk--a girl as responsible as Valerie might be ready for a pet soon.

About Kit's Time

During the Great Depression, many people had their standards of life suddenly lowered. With jobs and wages drying up, people had to turn to new ways to make money, like taking in boarders (my great-grandmother did this; her husband died in 1929--when she was pregnant with Baby #11), and stretch their resources further. Sometimes it wasn't enough, and people lost their homes. Many of the newly-homeless people drifted from town to town, looking for work they could do in exchange for food, clothes, a safe place to sleep, or money. About half of them were teenagers or children.


Dedicated to "Annie Heuer, with love."

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

Ugh. "He only teases you because he has a crush on you!" Well, his parents should teach him better ways to interact with people he likes, then. If I ever have a son, I will encourage him to treat all people respectfully, just as I teach my daughters.

Valerie's hobby is buying vintage clothes at thrift stores, to put together into new outfits. Valerie's a hipster.

Valerie's dad isn't mentioned. I'm surprised he didn't come up more with Stirling's father having gone.

In one storyline, Valerie briefly considers returning to 2014 to get her birthday money and give it to Kit and her family, but quickly realizes that the newer style of money will look incredibly out of place, especially if anyone looks at the mint dates, which are almost guaranteed to be after 1933.

In one ending, Valerie tries the camera shutter again, to see if she'll be sent back to 1933 or another time. It doesn't work at all this time.

Several storylines include Valerie not letting adults steamroll her or other children just because of respecting elders; because not all elder deserve respect. She's learned about bullying in school, and knows when to stand up for herself or others.

Poisonous and venomous aren't synonymous. Poison is passive: the toxin won't get into your system unless you're touching or eating the thing (like a poison-dart frog or a poisonous mushroom). Venom is vicious: the toxin is delivered by bites or stabs (like a venomous snake or a kick from the heel spur of a platypus).

Also not synonymous: impeachment and getting removed from the presidency. Bill Clinton was impeached (that is, officially charged with an offense, and doesn't guarantee a conviction--and a conviction doesn't guarantee removal from office) and still served two full terms as president. Andrew Johnson was also impeached and finished his term.

Funny coincidence: Valerie briefly thinks of a baked potato, which was my dinner tonight.

Hmm. For the storylines in which Valerie said she was the cousin, how confused will the Kittredge family be when the real cousin shows up? Impersonating a laundry maid (like in Samantha's My Journey book) is a lot easier to explain away than impersonating a relative.

Some other possible endings: going back to the Kittredge house after the soup kitchen leads to a conversation with Kit that inspires Valerie to nurture her talent for fashion and become a designer when she grows up; going to Uncle Hendrik's house can give Valerie the idea to try to connect with her sitter; it can also inspire a conversation with her mother that ends in them agreeing Valerie will come her mother's work (in a lab of some sort) every Friday after school so they can bond better; being mistaken for a hobo can inspire Valerie to see if she can help homeless people not be treated as subhuman; or it can make her realize how much she's taken for granted and want to do more to help others; not impersonating Uncle Hendrik's great-niece leads the Kittredge to family to think Valerie ran away from home so that her mother could save money better, in one of those endings Valerie is able to identify a copperhead snake and prevent Kit from bring bitten which makes her appreciate the educational opportunities her mother provides for her; riding the rails and seeing how desperate some people are makes Valerie appreciate what she has; getting to know new people inspires Valerie to get to know her sitter, instead of just ignoring her, and becomes friends with her; a visit to Aunt Millie can also help Valerie not take things for granted and motivate her to take care of her things; it can also inspire her to use some of her less interesting vintage clothing to learn to quilt; and my favorite ending has Valerie stand up to Uncle Hendrik and bet him that if then-first-term-president Franklin Roosevelt is re-elected, Uncle Hendrik will pay for the college education of Kit's older brother, and if FDR is elected to a third and fourth term, he'll pay for Kit's college (if FDR doesn't win, Kit and her brother will do free chores for a year).


The Glow of the Spotlight: My Journey with Rebecca

Published in 2014; author Jacqueline Dembar Greene; illustrators Julie Kolesova and Michael Dwornik; Russian doll charm by Boheme Jewelry

"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, Jacqueline.


Jacqueline is in an antique shop with her mother and twin sister, Megan. Ever-studious and serious Megan is dutifully doing her homework while their mother haggles over a mirror, but Jacqueline, who's more interested in her dance lessons (she wants to be a professional, and has a big part in an upcoming production), is looking around the wares. She sees a pretty Russian nesting doll and takes the dolls out one by one. As she carefully replaces the smaller doll in its larger one and lines it up just so, the room spins and she finds herself on an apartment rooftop. There's a girl her age nearby dressed in old-fashioned clothes, feeding pigeons. Jacqueline lines up the dolls again and is back in the antique store, with no time having passed. Curious and excited and eager to escape her concerns in the present day (aside from homework, Jacqueline had a fight with her friend Liz, and is also nervous that she'll get stage fright like she did in her last performance), Jacqueline does the trick again. If no time passes, she can find out more about where the dolls are transporting her and be back with her mom and sister without them ever knowing she was gone.

Now back on the rooftop, Jacqueline gets to meet the girl, Rebecca Rubin. Seeing Jacqueline's dance costume (she'd just come from rehearsal), Rebecca assumes Jacqueline must be the vaudeville performer her cousin Max had said was visiting. Before Jacqueline can confirm or deny this, the apartment manager, Mr. Rossi, comes up to tell the girls stop bothering his pigeons and get off the roof. Jacqueline mentions she's from New Jersey (which is true; back in modern times she's about to catch a ferry from Manhattan to get home) and Mr. Rossi figures she's a friend's neighbor. He had just written his friend that he couldn't take the neighbor in despite the worries of sickness in New Jersey; there's no room.

First choice: say you need a place to stay or that you're a vaudeville performer

Rebecca immediately offers her family's apartment, provided her parents agree. Mr. Rossi protests that they can't sublet, but Jacqueline assures him she can get back to New Jersey quickly and she will only stay a day or two. But in Rebecca's apartment, her parents insist Jacqueline stay longer--New Jersey has been reporting cases of whooping cough, and Jacqueline should steer clear until the danger is passed. She can even go to school with Rebecca. Jacqueline is worried she won't fit in, given her fancy dance costume, but Rebecca has hand-me-downs from her older twin sisters: two of everything. Everything, even the shoes, fit well enough that Jacqueline can explore the past without sticking out too much. Given the large number of immigrants arriving constantly, hardly anyone bats an eye at Jacqueline's sudden enrollment in the school. Jacqueline wonders if school will be easier a hundred years in the past, but then she's called on to recite the nine times table--and she's been struggling with multiplication in 2014. She gets stuck on nine times four.

Next choice: look to Rebecca for help (she had just breezed through the eight times table) or guess the answer

Rebecca subtly holds out three fingers, then six. 36. But the teacher sees anyway, and has both Rebecca and Jacqueline stay in at recess as punishment for cheating. As they clean the blackboards, Rebecca gives Jacqueline some tips on remembering her multiplication tables. Jacqueline is happy that she can finally remember them, but says she won't need to know much math as a professional dancer. Rebecca disagrees; math is important in all aspects of life. She demonstrates this later at the market, haggling produce prices. Jacqueline is feeling more confident with math, but when she sets her purse down for a moment to count out the money for some onions, it disappears. Rebecca's younger brother thinks a boy running past took it. And the nesting dolls are in the purse.

Next choice: push through the crowd after the boy or wait for Rebecca to come along too

Jacqueline gives chase, but the boy is too fast. Another boy, a bit older, sees what's happening and is able to return the purse. The money inside is missing, but the nesting dolls are still there. Back at Rebecca's apartment, Jacqueline takes in the wonderful sense of family she sees around the dinner table. She's ready to get back to her own family. Before she leaves, she tells Rebecca that she'll think of her whenever she's doing math: Rebecca would be a great teacher. Rebecca says that while she does want to be a performer, helping Jacqueline showed her that teaching is fun in its own. Jacqueline is sure that whatever Rebecca chooses, she'll be great at it.

About Rebecca's Time

Vaudeville was popular entertainment in the 1910s, as was all kinds of live theater, all along the spectrum to Broadway. Movies, a new thing then, were also gaining in popularity. But there were times when even children who could afford movies weren't allowed to go. Although germ theory was understood by Samantha's time, it hadn't progressed much by Rebecca's time. The manner of transmission was generally grasped--being in close contact with sick people could make others sick. But ways to prevent the spread of disease was largely limited to quarantine. During a particularly bad polio epidemic, children (those most susceptible to the disease) were banned from movie theaters and libraries, in an attempt to prevent more from contracting it.


Dedicated to Elly, for "friendship that travels through all times." Another little note gives "much gratitude to Erin Falligant."

Like in Samantha's My Journey book, the protagonist is sent back in time in her original clothes.

Jacqueline gets to share in the Sabbath dinner, which she doesn't quite understand but does appreciate.

One of my nieces caught whooping cough literally days before she was going to be vaccinated (newborns are too young; the vaccine is first given at two months, then four months, six months, between 15 and 18 months, and between 4 and 6 years; plus adults need boosters, especially pregnant women). She ended up hospitalized. She's okay now, but it was scary for a while. If she hadn't been around unvaccinated people she wouldn't have caught it. Unless there's a medical reason to not be vaccinated, like allergies or not being old enough, everyone should be up-to-date to protect people who can't get the shots.

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

Some other possible endings: if Rebecca's brother finds Jacqueline's purse, she feels compelled to help replace the stolen money and does a street performance (her tap shoes were in her purse), with Rebecca acting as an emcee to call attention to Jacqueline, and before she leaves for modern times Jacqueline encourages Rebecca to think about teaching because she's not only good at it, but the best teachers are sort of putting on performances to get their students involved; delivering some food to a new student's family only to find his baby brother has whooping cough (which is still terrifying today; it can be fatal, and infants are at higher risk) helps Jacqueline gain respect for medical science, because when she gets back to her own time she learns she's been vaccinated against the disease; seeing factory conditions where children work because no one else in their families can get jobs makes Jacqueline grateful for the opportunities she has in the modern day, and she resolves to not take them for granted--starting with her times tables; performing in a vaudeville competition with Rebecca can help Jacqueline gain confidence; seeing the good and bad ways Rebecca interacts with her siblings can give Jacqueline a deeper appreciation for Megan and a desire to learn about her interests to share more with her; it can also give her ideas about how to end her fight with Liz; it can also show Jacqueline that she's truly beaten her stage fright; helping Rebecca make up a play with her twin sisters and younger brother can show Jacqueline the importance of compromise and seeing things from others' points of view; it can also show her that because no one is the same everyone has something different--and useful--to share, even her sister Megan.