This book was the Edward Eager book I remember the most from when I was a child, but reading it again, I seemed to have forgotten much more about the story than I thought I had, forgetting one of the main characters (the Natterjack) completely!
The book follows Roger, Ann, Jack and Eliza again, as they are sent to a house for the summer, while their parents work in London.
Jack has grown up since the last book, and is convinced they dreamt it. He would much rather spend his time chatting up girls than going on magical adventures.
“Anything can happen when you’ve all the time in the world.”
The garden of the house has various kinds of the herb thyme growing in it, and a sun dial bearing a cryptic message. They meet the Natterjack – who looks like a toad but can talk and are sent back in time by the thyme, but only in time, not space, so the house still stands behind them, and they are in the middle of The War of Independence.
As it turns out there will be a battle that night, the children realise maybe they are the ones who have to make sure everyone is ready to fight, and that if they wern’t there it might not have happened.
They appear as people of olden times, to avoid them constantly being asked why they dress so oddly.
To have an adventure somewhere else, they take a load of the magic thyme in a box with them to Boston for the day and go to the house where Little Women was set. Of course, the children use a wish to take them back in time to meet some of the people from Louisa May Alcott’s book.
I have never read Little Women , but you are immersed into their world in such a way that it doesn’t really matter, as you understand everything that is going on anyway. Though I have never read Little Women, I remembered this adventure of theirs perfectly.
In the adventure they are sent to help a woman who is supposedly ill, but is really just lazy, while there, her child steals Ann’s ring and refuses to give it back, leading to an argument and the Natterjack turning into a dragon. I won’t say how, because you should read it. Maybe if this part had made it into Little Women, I’d have been more tempted to read that book as a child as well.
“Suppose you were up in an airplane. You could look down and see us, here on this beach, and you could see the Boston road, over beyond the woods, too. But it’d take us half an hour to walk from here to there. Time’s like that. It’s all there, Henry the Eighth and Lincoln and yesterday and today, all happening over and over all the time. Only it takes time to get from one to the other.”
This also explains how they met with their parents in Magic by The Lake. It isn’t done in the most obvious way, that is the children don’t wish to see their parents as children. They just wish to see their parents, but do not specify when.
Once there, they realise who the other children are, this is done well, with many of the sentences being the exact same ones as in Magic by the Lake, but told from Roger, Jack, Eliza, and Ann’s point of view rather than the other children’s.
Back in the Time/Thyme garden. Jack and Eliza find Old English thyme, which should surely get them to their parents in London. To make this wish, they break the rules, and find themselves not only in Elizabethan England, but everyone notices they are not wearing Elizabethan clothes. Eliza is sent to the Tower of London, while Jack is made a palace guard.
Back in the present, Roger and Ann realise they may be in trouble, and set out to save them, but this will use up the last of their magic.
They get sent back to Victorian times and go on a tour round the Tower of London, where they see the letters “E-L-I-Z” scratched into the wall, while there is a chance this is just someone called Elizabeth, it could also be their cousin Eliza, so they wish for her to be in their time.
“Even last times don’t last forever, you know.”
While I remembered liking this Edward Eager book the most from when I was younger, and could remember the adventure into the book Little Women and the adventure into Elizabethan England, there was a lot I had forgotten completely, so it was surprising to read about it as if for the first time.
This book may in fact be better to read yourself, rather than having it read to you as it was to me, because of the frequent mentions of time versus thyme, which of course cannot be fully noticed when said out loud.