I mentioned earlier that I had several great books that authors or publishers had asked me to review yet to share with you, and I’m so happy to share one of them with you today. This combination of true crime, time travel, and historical fiction is sure to keep you turning the pages!
by Shirley Vernick
Regal House, 2022
Read through Edelweiss, at the author’s request.
Young teen Abe Pearlman has never been able to work up the courage to talk to his crush, Mitzy Singer. He’s feeling especially dejected one afternoon when he wanders into a fortune-teller’s shop. He doesn’t have high expectations – but somehow finds himself sent back in time to London in the time of Jack the Ripper. He’s still a Jewish kid, now named Asher, but at that time, that means he has a job he’s supposed to know how to do (much of the information lurking in his subconscious, fortunately) and a single mother he has to help support. But this disorientation is soon a minor issue, as he quickly discovers that bit about Jack the Ripper – and that the police and the public are convinced that the Ripper must be a Jew, turning the Jewish community in general and people that Abe knows in particular into targets.
He also finds that Mitzy has also been sent back in time. She’s living in the apartment just above his – but in the life she’s taken over, she’s blind, and even more desperate to get back home than he is. With no real idea how they ended up where they are, or who the real Jack the Ripper is, solving these dual mysteries is a tall order indeed. On the plus side, Abe and Mitzy now have no option but to work closely together, getting to know each other in the process.
This book worked very well – having the adventure be a time travel kept the situation from feeling too grim, while having the kids dropped into existing lives made for a much easier introduction into the other timeline than it would have been if they’d had to make places for themselves. Both Abe and Mitzy were able to make real differences – Mitzy more with ideas, since she didn’t leave the apartment on her own. I hadn’t known of the anti-Semitic connection with Jack the Ripper at all, and it’s a good thing to be reminded of in these times of sadly increased violence. The adventure, though, is good enough to attract kids on its own.
For another take on this book, here’s Ms. Yingling’s review.
This perspective is sorely lacking in historical fiction in particular. Laurel Snyder’s Seven Stories Up also has time travel, I think from a Jewish perspective (I know the author is herself Jewish), though the story is much slower-paced and gentler than Ripped Away. Jonathan Auxier’s Sweep is also set in 19th century London and includes violence and some Jewish elements. I have read more teen books in which characters travel back in time to witness injustice, like Zetta Elliott’s A Wish After Midnight. Readers, am I missing more of this in middle grade books?