The Time Garden
by Edward Eager
The children from Knight's Castle
return for another summer full of magical adventures through history and literature. Jack and Eliza and their cousins Roger and Ann meet at the home of a distant relative, a lady who writes children's stories in an old mansion on the South Shore of Massachusetts, while their parents are in London.
In between swimming and collecting shells and taking walks on the shore and other fun (and in Jack's case, hitting on teenage girls), they find themselves swept into one magical journey after another. They are aided on their way by a wonderful creature called the Natterjack-- and I won't be the one to tell you who or what that is-- who guides them on journeys through time, space, and even books come to life. His secret? A patch of wild thyme growing in the garden, and the fact that in pun after mind-bending pun, Thyme is interchangeable with Time.
You would think that after reliving Ivanhoe in a nursery full of toy soldiers come to life, they would have the hang of things like this. But of course, the children get into scrape after scrape, thanks in part to Eliza's strong-mindedness, Ann's softheartedness, and the fact that Jack is just about too old to believe in magic any more. Which changes their adventures from a series of "non-fiction" experiences in the Revolutionary War and Civil War periods, to an outrageous visit to the semi-autobiographical world of Little Women, to a tropical isle filled with cannibals and even more astonishing company, to (at last) three silly and at times almost scary adventures in London at different periods of time.
The lessons to be learned are quite simple:
1. When playing with magic, always follow the rules.
2. Try to dress and behave appropriately when visiting Queen Elizabeth the First or Queen Victoria.
3. Be polite and considerate to Natterjacks. And finally,
4. Try to do some good when you're living on borrowed thyme.
This is a funny, charming, mind-expanding book, and the children are terrific. And if that isn't saying enough to get you to read it, let me quote part of what makes this perhaps Eager's most perfect book...
What the Natterjack would have said, no one could tell, for no one had asked him. The Natterjack did not mind. He bided his time. He could wait.
He and the house and the garden were waiting. They were waiting for four children. They didn't care how long they waited. They had all the time in the world.
The Natterjack alone is worth your time and trouble. As fun magical creatures go, he tops the list right alongside E. Nesbit
's Phoenix and J. K. Rowling's Dobby. And, like most of Eager's books, The Time Garden
slips you hints about other books that you may not have heard of, but that (if you like this one) you may also come to love.
Recommended Age: 8+
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