Children's Book Week - The Top Five Books That Transport Me to a Different Time by Hannahlily Smith

To celebrate Children's Book Week, I asked teachers and librarians to respond to the prompt - "Books can take you anywhere..."  Over the course of the week, I will be sharing their responses.  Hannahlily Smith is the Teen Librarian in a Public Library in Eastern Tennessee.

I admit it. I am one of those strange people who will ask you the question (usually shortly after I have met you for the first time) “If you could live in any point in history, when and where would it be?” Responses to the question have ranged from the purely annoyed to the absolutely fascinated, but I am consistently intrigued by the answers. What makes us choose a particular era over any other? What does this say about our personality? And would we want to change our mind if we could actually live in the time we have chosen?

Your wonderful blog administrator sent me the prompt “Books can take you anywhere” and I immediately thought of my favorite get-to-know-you question. Because my favorite place books take me is to different times. I am a huge Historical Fiction fan. Books let me live, for a moment, in the skin of people, long dead (if they ever lived to begin with) and allow me to experience cultures and eras so vastly different from my own. So the following list of five children’s books are my personal top five books that transport me to a different time: books that show me what life could have been like if I really got my wish to live during another point in history.

5. ANY HISTORICAL FICTION BY JENNIFER L. HOLM So first I was going to put the May Amelia books. Then I was going to put Boston Jane. Then I remembered Penny from Heaven…and Turtle in Paradise. How could I choose? I feel like each of her historical fiction novels show me what life was like for an American girl in different decades of history. Of course, Jennifer L. Holm’s characters are stupendously done, but it’s her little details of setting that truly make me feel like I am in 1930s Key West…or 1850s Washington…or so many different times and places.

4. Once by Morris Gleitzman OH HOW I CRIED reading this book. As anyone who can claim to be somewhat widely read, I’ve encountered my fair share of Holocaust stories. This is the one that made me feel like I was THERE, suffering with Felix and Zelda. It is not a nice feeling. This is not a book I want to ever read again, but I feel like it is such an important book. It’s crucial for our future to have people like Gleitzman who can vividly make us experience the horrors of our past.

3. The Wolves of Willoughby Chase by Joan Aiken I was an English major in college. I read so many Victorian novels (loose, baggy monsters, we called them) that I’ve lost count. I LOVE Victorian novels, (you are looking at the #1 Sherlock Holmes obssessee in high school), and I think they have a very identifiable style of prose; one that is terribly difficult to replicate for a late 20th or early 21st century author. The only author I’ve read that truly made me feel like I was IN a Victorian setting is Joan Aiken. I don’t know how she did it, but this tale of two spunky girls who undergo some harrowing circumstances reads just like a Sensational Novel from 1865 to me. Plus, unlike many Sensational Novels from 1865, Wolves is tons of fun.

2. The Death Defying Pepper Roux by Geraldine McCaughrean If I were talking about ALL books instead of just children’s books, my #1 book that transports me would be by this author: her Printz Award-winning The White Darkness. Just thinking about that book for this post made me so cold I had to go put on a sweatshirt. Effective stuff. This book is equally effective, just in a different way. The Booklist review says it’s full of “Plucky Misadventures” which, I think, is just about the most perfect two word synopsis I’ve ever read. I don’t remember any of the characters with great detail (Although I remember that I thought they were brilliant) and I don’t remember much about the episodic plot, but I can still remember the setting of 1930ish France running about, escaping ordeals, with Pepper Roux.

1. The Sherwood Ring by Elizabeth Marie Pope. Here it is. My number one book that transports me to a different time. I first encountered this book at my local library when I was in middle school and I loved it so much I literally hand-copied every word so I could have my very own copy (the book was out of print and this was long before one could buy no longer published books on Ebay). I used to dress up and pretend I was these characters. I have not read this book since I was probably 14 (even though I own 3 copies). I am scared to; scared to change my fond memories of it. But, if I close my eyes, I can still imagine myself in Revolutionary War Era New England, with Peaceable Sherwood and Barbara Grahame.

Thanks Hannahlily for sharing your top 5 books that transport you to a different time!  I knew there was a reason I liked you - we both love Jenni Holm and historical fiction.

You can follow Hannahlily on twitter: @hannahlilys and on pinterest, here