Thursday, August 18, 2016

Traveling through #History – Time Travel Novels for Middle Grade Readers #KidLit

Time travel books have long been popular in children’s literature. Often, the time-travel itself is the only fantasy element, while both the present world and the past are strictly realistic. In Susan Cooper’s King of Shadows, a young actor winds up in Shakespeare’s time. In Kimberly Little’s The Last Snake Runner, a Native American boy travels back to the Acoma Pueblo of 1598. These books take place mainly in the past, as seen through the eyes of a contemporary character.

A few books weave contemporary and past stories together with multiple trips through time. In On Etruscan Time, by Tracy Barrett, a boy on an archaeology dig visits an Etruscan village 2000 years ago. He and his friend from the past move between each other’s world several times.

Louise Spiegler’s The Jewel and the Key involves a character traveling back and forth between the early days of the American invasion of Iraq, and World War I. Spiegler says, “My subject demanded time travel. I felt a strong resonance between the two time periods, between the two wars – the questionable reasons for our involvement, the strong voices raised against it, the antagonism towards dissent, the curtailment of civil liberties.

“In this case, the advantage over straight historical fiction is the introduction of a perspective that characters who are embedded in their own time period can’t have. My World War I characters can’t know – as my 21st century characters do, for example – that World War I won’t be the war to end all wars.”

In The Golden Hour series, Maiya Williams’s characters travel to periods ranging from the French Revolution to Cleopatra’s Egypt to the California Gold Rush. She says, “I’d rather write about contemporary people experiencing the past than write about people who were actually from that time. There are more opportunities for humor that way, and the narrative is more engaging to the young reader, with relatable characters to guide them through the history.”

Time Travel History

On Etruscan Time, Tracy Barrett. Etruscan village, 2000 years ago.

The Golden Hour series: The Golden Hour (French Revolution); Hour of the Cobra (Cleopatra’s Egypt); Hour of the Outlaw (California Gold Rush), by Maiya Williams.

King of Shadows, Susan Cooper. Shakespeare’s time.

The Last Snake Runner, Kimberly Little. Acoma Pueblo, New Mexico 1598.

This is a small sample. How many other time travel novels for young people can you name?

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Chris Eboch’s novels for ages nine and up include The Eyes of Pharaoh, a mystery in ancient Egypt; The Well of Sacrifice, a Mayan adventure; and the Haunted series, about kids who travel with a ghost hunter TV show, which starts with The Ghost on the Stairs. Learn more at or her Amazon page.


  1. Victory by Susan Cooper and Nick of Time by Ted Bell

    Deb Watley

  2. There's Alison Uttley's A Traveller In Time for one.