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).

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