Review Detail

Young Adult Fiction 236
Time Travel with Timely Connections
Overall rating
Writing Style
For as much information as was in this book, I was able to write most of the review without looking at my notes, which means that the story was easy to follow and well put together. Malcolm is an engaging character whose life has been difficult even though his family is very supportive. I'm always glad to see characters who spend summers with family in the south, because it is interesting to see them compare the treatment of Blacks there to their own experiences. The inclusion of family history was fascinating, and adding a little romance didn't hurt. The time travel is done convincingly, with Malcolm struggling a bit to adjust to being Cedric, but doing a great job. There is a devastating twist with Cedric's life that propels Malcolm to work harder on saving the family farm. Seeing the uncle struggle with adjusting to life outside prison adds an interesting layer. The biographies and time line will be helpful to students who are really interested in history and are looking for people to investigate further. I'd love to see a nonfiction book about this time period!

This was so well done and covers a period of history about which I am sure few young readers know. There are lots of books where Black children travel back to the time of slavery, (such as Trapped Between the Lash and the Gun by Arvella Whitmore or Messner's Ranger in Time: Long Road to Freedom) and it was such a joy to read one where the time travel lead to a discovery of a time when Black people where making a lot of sociopolitical progress. This strikes me as the kind of book that the characters in Rhuday-Perkovich's It Doesn't Take a Genius summer camp would be reading! Very interesting.
Good Points
In 2015, Malcolm Williams is being raised in Washington, D.C. after the violent death of his father when he was a baby. After he is involved in a racially charged incident with the police himself, his mother sends him to spend the summer with family in Missippi. His grandmother has passed, but he is able to help his elderly great aunt and uncle with the farm, although farm work does NOT appeal to him, and the lack of WiFi doesn't make him happy, either. He is intrigued when his Uncle Corey is released from jail after serving a sixteen year sentence for marijuana possession, since his uncle is his only connection with his father. When his aunt tells the family at a reunion that they are going to lose the rest of the farm to more highway construction (they had lost much of it in the 1960s), Malcolm isn't too concerned at first, and doesn't think there is much he can do. He meets a neighbor girl, Jasmine, and goes to a fair with her, where he gets in trouble after local white hoodlums push HIM around. Luckily, Jasmine's father is a lawyer who is well versed in the treatment that Black men recieve from the police and get him released. When Malcolm finds the diary of an ancestor, Cedric Johnson, from the 1870s, he becomes more interested in Civil Rights-- especially when Cedric himself appears and sends him back in time! Malcolm finds himself walking in Cedrics shoes as a congressional aide to Pastor Hiram Revels, the first Black congressman who served during Reconstruction. Malcolm keeps traveling back in time, moving a few years into the future with each trip, and meets an amazing array of Black historical figures. As he is witnessing the mostly hidden history of the 1800s, he is dealing with racial issues in the present, especially the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church shooting in Charleston. This, along with all of the things that Cedric witnesses, spurs him to try to save the family farm by declaring it a historical site, which the journal helps him to do. The book includes brief biographies of many of the figures mentioned, and an excellent timeline.
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