I read a lot as a kid, and I read all kinds of books. I read my sister’s copies of The Babysitter’s Club. I read books about horses. I read historical fiction. But the books that I read the most, the books that I found a true love for, all fell into the sci-fi or fantasy genre. One of my favorite authors to write in the genre was Dianna Wynne Jones. If you haven’t heard of her before, she was JK Rowling before JK Rowling. She wrote the Chrestomanci books starting all the way back in 1977. Those books were about young magicians learning how to use their powers. Sound familiar? She also wrote Castle in the Air and Howl’s Moving Castle, both now turned into animated movies.
On the sci-fi front, A Tale of Time City was one of those books that I constantly returned to as a child. I would re-read this book over and over and over, enjoying it every single time. Time City is a wonderful little time travel novel. One of the best things that Jones introduced in the novel was the main setting: Time City. Time City stands outside of the general time stream. The citizens are in charge of making sure that time runs correctly, and that the things that are supposed to happen do actually happen.
The plot gets going when two boys from Time City, Jonathan and Sam, kidnap Vivian Smith from 1939 because of a case of mistaken identity. The rest of the novel involves Vivian having to pretend to be Jonathan and Sam’s cousin, Vivian Lee, while the three of them also work to make sure that Time City doesn’t collapse because of a series of “time eggs” being stolen from various eras in history. Of course, they have to do all this without letting any of the adults know about their adventures.
So why do I love this book? And why do I want Rose to read it some day? First of all, it’s got a strong female protagonist. Before Hermione Granger was even a glimmer in JK Rowling’s eye, Vivian was out having adventures and saving Time City. There are plenty of weak female protagonists out there, characters who just follow the lead of their male counterparts. Vivian isn’t one of those. She wants to save the city, and she is vocal about how they should go about doing so. She doesn’t let Sam and Jonathan do all of the work, or have all of the ideas, even though she has been unwillingly pulled out of her time period.
This is one that I can’t wait to read to Rose, and rediscover as a parent. I’m sure that it isn’t as perfect as I remember it being, but it’s good enough and exciting enough that I think it’s worth having a place on your shelf.