Window of Time: A Story
Ben really did not run away from home. He was still in the neighborhood, only it was 125 years earlier in time and the Battle of Gettysburg was about to begin! Ben learned that what he was seeing was not a television play, but his town, only earlier -- at its most historic moment.
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It is around 1988, and Ben Leeds, who is almost twelve, has recently moved from the big city to the small town of Westminster, MD, where his father is a music professor at a local college, and his mother is a nurse. The Leeds family lives in a condominium which was formerly occupied by the late Professor Henderson, who had taught history at the same college where Ben’s father works. While cleaning out the basement, he finds some old clothes and items which must have belonged to the professor. He puts on a pair of boots and takes a piece of paper out of a jacket, but the light is too dim to read it, so he just stuffs it in his pants pocket. He notices that someone has boarded up the window, and he removes the board. He sees three boys playing Keep Away in his yard, and one of the boys kicks the ball through the window, breaking the glass.
When Ben climbs through the window to play a joke on his father, he finds that his clothes are changed and it is June 28, 1863, during the height of the Civil War. He can’t get back through the window because the person living in his house back then, Mr. Flint, has a mean dog, Butch, which chases Ben away. He makes a friend in Joseph Harner, a nine and a half year old boy who lives in the other half of the house with his mother and older brother Andrew, a Union soldier. Because Maryland is on the border, both Confederate and Union troops pass through Westminster. Ben is afraid that his parents may think that he’s run away. Over the next several days, Ben and Joseph have many adventures, but do you know what famous Civil War battle took place over July 1-4, 1863, just a few miles north of Westminster? Will Joseph and Ben survive? And will Ben ever make it back to his own time?
I enjoy good historical time-travel books, and Window of Time is one of the most interesting that I have read in a long while. As to language, there is nothing worse than a few common euphemisms (gosh, heck, darn, doggone, blast it all). Joseph does tell some fibs as he makes up stories in trying to explain where Ben comes from, but we might be charitable and recognize that this is an extremely unusual situation the boys are in. However, in general kids will get a good look at what the Civil War was like, especially from Ben’s modern perspective. And there is a neat surprise at the end. Also available is a Teacher’s Guide by Carole R. Campbell to accompany the novel that can be used by classroom educators or homeschooling parents to help give students an accurate picture of everyday life during this period.