As readers of my blog know, I’m a sucker for good middle grade time travel, and No Ordinary Thing, by G.Z. Schmidt, was a very nice one indeed!
When his parents died when he was very young, Adam went to live with his uncle. Life in the Biscuit Basket, his uncle’s bakery, is (literally) sweet, but Adam is withdrawn (never talking at school unless he has to, and with no friends) and worried about his dying pet mouse. Business is very bad indeed, and the bakery’s future looks grim.
Then a stranger arrives, and greets Adam as if they know each other, pulling out a lovely snow globe in which is the cityscape of Manhattan. He offers no explanations, just the enigmatic words “great things are in store for you” and “Tonight, go up to the attic.” Adam does, and finds a snow globe of his own. But there is nothing in it other than a layer of snow.
This soon changes, and when the cityscape appears in it, Adam is transported back in time to a winter’s day in New York of the 1930s. Other journeys await, falling within the years between the first journey and Adam’s present of 1999, both within the city and to a smaller town some ways away. The people Adam meets are all connected to the time magic of the snow globe, and to two other talismans of time, one tied to the present, the other to the future…
Life for Adam is now full of mystery, danger from an enemy who wants the magic for his own greedy purposes, and snatched friendships in other times. And with his adventures in time, his desire to fix things, not just for himself but for those he meets, grows. But the gifts of time magic are tricky things….
So clearly I’m not going into lots of detail here. Suffice to say–good characters, good mystery to be unraveled, lots of difficult choices, interesting visits to the past, and an a satisfying (though somewhat rushed) ending. I especially liked Adam’s connection to Victor, one of the homeless men in the nearby shelter where Adam takes unsold baked goods–Victor was once a mathematician, and I like his thoughts about time lots (Victor is also the hero of the final confrontation….). The time travel is interesting–Adam never stays very long in any place or time, and his visits to the same places are sometimes out of chronological order. I’m not quite sure why the snow globe took him when and where it did, but it all ties together (clever snow globe!).
If you love time travel stories that are centered on making meaningful connections across time, this is one you’ll like lots!
note re diversity–Adam’s mother was from China, and the author likewise was born in China but grew up in the US.