Sometimes, I just can't make up my mind about a book. Like Selene Castrovilla's historical picturebooks, which I loved but wasn't sure would circulate well - they have! or Gervay's I am Jack; I felt lukewarm about it, a neighboring librarian strongly disliked it, and it's currently meandering around our school district. By the law of averages, someone there will love it.
So, the first book in the Snipesville Chronicles by Annette Laing, Don't Know Where, Don't Know When. Three modern children travel back in time to World War II. They have to find a missing child before they can return to their own time.
The good: detailed, engrossing, realistic view of life in England during World War II. Many of the historical fiction books I've read emphasize the "they're just like you only wearing different clothes" school of historical thought (a certain large doll company springs to mind) but this book did an excellent job conveying the different mindsets, social conventions, and culture that existed less than a hundred years ago.
The characters had realistic reactions to their confusing surroundings and didn't just happily adapt to a completely different time and place as many time traveling culture-shock immune characters seem to do. While there were many aspects of the children's characters which weren't likable, their flaws fit into the story.
However, I felt confused by the different threads of the plot and the Professor's character, especially at the beginning, was too Snicketish for my taste. The story seemed to drag for a while before there was any action and I felt like the plot was too lengthy and could have been tightened.
But. Obviously, a lot of kids like Snicket! And the beginning may draw them in. If they're interested in historical fiction, history, and daily life, they may be fascinated by the minutia. As I said before, the historical aspect of the book is excellent. I would have liked to see some further resources or maybe a bibliography, but how many kids really look at those?
Verdict: So, as I said, this is going to be one where I reserve judgement. I'll see how it circs and what responses I get from our library patrons and repost in a few months! [Update: A few kids checked it out, but it didn't get much interest]
ISBN: 978-0979476945; Published August 2007 by Confusion Press; Review copy provided by the author