Carter and the Curious Maze
Nothing has ever happened here in the history of the world, he thinks. But the maze has some strange secrets, and the spot Carter stands upon has seen some very exciting events over the centuries.
Once Carter enters the maze, odd people begin to appear. First he meets Mr. Green, the mysterious, creepy maze-keeper, then a leaf-covered girl, a lost little boy in old-fashioned clothes, a wounded British soldier, and finally an eighteenth-century Native boy who seems very authentic, indeed.
When Carter eventually escapes the curious maze, the fair is all wrong. There are too many horses, ladies in bonnets, and what’s a freak show doing there? Carter begins his travels through time, and his dull afternoon is about to get very, very interesting.
Dowding’s story is fast-paced and compelling, with just enough mystery to be spooky. Daigle’s illustrations complement the tone of the text, adding life to characters such as Creepy Leaf Girl, the British soldiers, and Mr. Green himself. While the premise of the story—that someone could travel to the same location in various time periods through a magic maze—is compelling, and Dowding includes a note at the end discussing the historical events on which she based her narrative, I found myself wishing she had approached some of these events more critically. For example, when Carter visits the Grand Fair of 1903 and sees people in the freak show, such as “Thumbelina, the world’s smallest mother,” the bearded lady, and the “Wild Man of Borneo,” he briefly notes that the latter “looks like he’s in a zoo” but the narrative moves on rapidly without looking back. In her note, Dowding does not offer any further comment on the common and atrocious practice of freak shows, nor does she discuss the colonial history of exploitation that lead to tensions between natives, the British, and the Americans in the area.
This story could work well in a place-based social studies unit, and as Dowding encourages, could lead readers to investigate the history of their own fair grounds or other important local sites. However, in doing so, it would be crucial to dig up viewpoints and stories that have traditionally been left out of history books.