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.

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