Time Underground by Todd McClimans is an historical novel written for middle schoolers, but don’t let that stop you from experiencing this exciting, well-researched story. It’s an adventure that moves back and forth from present day to 1782.
Many towns in central and western Pennsylvania have at least one house still standing from the Underground Railroad. Ask any lifelong local historian and be prepared to listen. It happened 135 years ago. Some of our parents heard from their great grandparents about how desperate runaway slaves struggled to make their way to Canada.
Time Underground’s main character, Kristi, is a thirteen-year-old soccer player at a private boarding school in Eastern Pennsylvania. The story starts with her traveling by train to attend her father’s wedding. It’s a wedding she dreads and resents. It doesn’t help that she has to miss the biggest soccer game of the season.
Her elderly grandmother shares a family photo album with Kristi, who becomes obsessed with her ill-fated Great Great Uncle Britt. He disappeared while attempting to escape slavery through the Underground Railroad.
His photo shows a young black boy staring at the camera with the look of a deer in the headlights. The raw terror in his eyes haunts Kristi.
But Kristi has a secret; she is a time traveler. She decides to go back to 1782 to find her uncle with the help of her boarding school friend, Ty. Ty traveled back in time with her during their first time travel adventure to the Revolutionary War. He stayed in the past and was adopted by a kind farmer and his wife.
As a team, Ty’s reticence balances Kristi’s impulsive nature. Unbeknownst to Ty, his adoptive father is secretly involved with the Underground Railroad. And the adventure of finding Kristi’s long lost uncle begins. Britt was only eight years old when he was re-captured by slave catchers and disappeared.
Freezing weather, hunger, fires, captures and escapes are only a few of the obstacles they encounter as they work to evade the Wolves, otherwise known as slave catchers. The famous abolitionist and humanitarian, Harriet Tubman, guides them through cold nights and across freezing cold rivers. Kristi finds Harriet to be one very tough lady, as well as someone she can trust and respect.
Suspenseful plot twists make Time Underground a page turner with touches of humor. It brings in enough history to help a young reader understand slavery better than any dry textbook passage ever could. Will Kristi make it back in time to attend the dreaded wedding? Will Ty discover the true meaning of freedom? You will find these answers and many more in Time Underground.
"Time Underground" is written by Todd McClimans. It's published by Overdue Books.
Reviewer Cheryl Bazzoui is a frequent contributor to BookMark. She is also a writer and goes by the pen name Ann McCauley.