Monday, June 21, 2010

Review: Don't Know Where, Don't Know When by Annette Laing

Don't Know Where, Don't Know When
Author: Annette Laing
Publication: Confusion Press (August 20, 2007)

Description: What a nightmare. 

Hannah Dias, California Girl with Attitude, and Alex, her laid-back brother, have moved from exciting San Francisco to boring Snipesville, Georgia. Life doesn't improve when they meet Brandon, a dorky kid who is plotting his escape from the Deep South, and the weird Professor, who has a strange secret. 

Suddenly, the kids are catapulted thousands of miles and almost seventy years to England during World War Two. 

They fall into a world of stinging nettles, dragon ladies, bomb blasts, ugly underwear, stinky sandwiches, painful punishments, and non-absorbing toilet paper. They learn so much more than they could ever learn in a history class. Not that they want to learn it. 

But they can't go home unless they find George Braithwaite, whoever he is, and whatever it is that he has to do with Snipesville.

My Thoughts: I really enjoyed this book. It made learning about history not only painless but very interesting as well. Hannah and Alex are typical 21st Century kids who are unhappy about moving from California to a small town in Georgia. Brandon is a native of the small town and can hardly wait to grow up and leave. They meet when they are sent by their parents to summer activities at the local college. After finding a WWII identity card in a library book and meeting an unusual history professor, they are transported in time to a small town in England in 1940 where they are assumed to be evacuees. Brandon is separated from them and finds himself in England in 1915. They need to find George Braithwaite, the owner of the identity card, in order to get home again. They are aided in their search by the historian who goes by many names and who pops up now and again to give them clues.

The heart of this book was the relationships that were formed between our time travelers and the people who actually lived in the times they visited. The three children need help to learn about the time they are living in. Hannah and Alex are first fostered with the Archers but then move to the home of Mrs. Devenish, a local magistrate who is housing her granddaughter and an evacuee from the East End of London. They are doing whatever they can to avoid the evil Mr. Smedley and locate George Braithwaite. 

Meanwhile, Brandon is in 1915 working as an apprentice to dentist Dr. Gordon and living with his family including his daughter Peggy who is in love with a soldier and his nephew Oliver who is an orphan. I liked that we saw how the people changed from 1915 to 1940. It was interesting trying to figure out the relationships.

This was a great introduction to history. I found it emotionally engaging. In fact, I cried as I read Chapter 15. As soon as I finished the book, I headed right to and bought a copy of A Different Day, A Different Destiny. I want to know what is next for Hannah, Alex, and Brandon.

You can find out more about the author and the books at Annette Laing's website. I recommend the books to middle grade classrooms, middle grade students, or history lovers of any age.

Challenges: In the Middle Reading Challenge, 2010 YA Reading Challenge, RYOB Reading Challenge

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