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

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