Genre: Fantasy

Portals of History: ONCE WAS A TIME (2016) by Leila Sales

Posted March 15, 2016 by What Katie Read in Book Reviews / 0 Comments

Portals of History: ONCE WAS A TIME (2016) by Leila SalesOnce Was a Time by Leila Sales
Published by Chronicle Books on April 5th 2016
Genres: Fantasy, Historical Fiction, Middle Grade
Pages: 272
Source: Netgalley

In the war-ravaged England of 1940, Charlotte Bromley is sure of only one thing: Kitty McLaughlin is her best friend in the whole world. But when Charlotte's scientist father makes an astonishing discovery that the Germans will covet for themselves, Charlotte is faced with an impossible choice between danger and safety. Should she remain with her friend or journey to another time and place? Her split-second decision has huge consequences, and when she finds herself alone in the world, unsure of Kitty's fate, she knows that somehow, some way, she must find her way back to her friend. Written in the spirit of classic time-travel tales, this book is an imaginative and heartfelt tribute to the unbreakable ties of friendship.

Time travel! England during WWII! Tea! A British protagonist! Two bosom friends…all these elements and more are what drew me to read Leila Sales’ new Middle Grade book, ONCE WAS A TIME.

The Book:

Charlotte and Kitty are the two friends we focus on in the opening pages of the narrative, and it’s Charlotte’s father who is actually researching time travel. Charlotte is aware of the importance of her father’s work and is curious about what the ability to time travel might mean, but she is not prepared for the dangerous situation into which she, Kitty, and her father are thrust. Lives are at stake, and Charlotte has to make a split decision about whether to stay with Kitty or to leave. In other words, the opportunity for time travel presents itself, and Charlotte has to decide whether to make the leap…or not.

What I Loved:

Awhile back, I read one of Leila’s Young Adult books, and when I heard that she wrote a time travel middle grade, I was intrigued, especially since it featured a British protagonist and opened in the great country of England during WWII. If you keep up with me on Goodreads or even this blog, you’ll know that I am especially fond of children’s and young adult literature set during the WWII period—historical fiction is one of my favorite genres—in the world of children’s, young adult, and adult books. So it’s no surprise that I snatched this one up on Netgalley as soon as it was available!

Readers with a passion for children’s literature in general might appreciate the many references to different children’s books and even the large role that a library plays in the story. Spoiler: Charlotte does travel through time, but it’s forwards, and not backwards.

Charlotte’s friendship with a librarian is a highlight of the story, and the notion of libraries closing due to lack of funding is brought up, bringing in a real life (and sad!) connection. If you were an avid reader as a young person (or if you are now), you will be delighted at the many books referenced in the story due to Charlotte’s great appetite for reading as many volumes in the library as possible.

The celebration of friendship and its capacity to be enduring and weather trials is strong in this story, and readers certainly have room to discuss the nature of authentic relationship and connection. I loved the connection between Charlotte and Kitty–especially in the last part of the book, but I wanted to read even more with them on center stage!

Finally, I love that cover! Well-done Chronicle books for a unique and intriguing design!

What I Didn’t Expect:

If you glanced at my Goodreads review, you would have seen that I made a comment about this story was not quite what I expected. While I assumed certain characters would take center stage in the narrative, that was not actually the case.

Also, I was surprised at the direction of travel that the transporting took place! I won’t give anything away here, but there was an interesting twist with who traveled where, and for how long they stayed in that time period. There might be some readers who are a little incredulous at the way the story is resolved, but I didn’t have too many issues with the ending, due to the readership and the scope and length of the book.

Are you planning to read ONCE WAS A TIME when it is released in April? What are your thoughts on time travel in Middle Grade titles? Other favorites to share?

What Katie Read



First of all, this amazing book is out today and if you haven’t preordered a copy, you better run down to the bookstore ASAP and purchase one! I also have a Twitter giveaway going on for an ARC of the book as well! “IT IS A KNOWN FACT THAT THE MOST EXTRAORDINARY MOMENTS IN A […]

Posted February 23, 2016 by What Katie Read in Book Reviews / 1 Comment

The Heart of a Fox: Pax by ..

The Heart of a Fox: Pax by Sara Pennypacker (2016)

Remember all those Middle Grade ARCs I acquired at ALA Midwinter? Well, PAX was one of them, and I am happy to say that it was one of my first 5 Star reads of 2016 in the world of Middle Grade! Thank you, HarperCollins, for providing me with the opportunity to give my honest review […]

Posted February 9, 2016 by What Katie Read in Book Reviews / 0 Comments

Classic Middle Grade Review..

Classic Middle Grade Review: Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of Nimh (1971) by Robert C. O’Brien

On Friday, April 3rd, The Midnight Garden is holding their monthly classic Middle Grade Discussion, so today and later this week I’m bringing you my thoughts on both last month’s classic—Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of Nimh (1971) and this month’s selection—The Secret Garden (1911). Both are books I loved as a child and that […]

The Power of Imaginary Frie..

The Power of Imaginary Friends: The Imaginary (Review) by A.F. Harrold, illustr., Emily Gravett

Illuminations of Spirituality in The Imaginary: The imagination is important, and any story that celebrates that, in my opinion, has value. Amanda’s imaginary friend, Rudger, brings joy to her life, but not only that—he is ready and willing to protect her against the evil (and imaginary friend-eating) Mr. Bunting—who is actually a threat to both […]

Posted March 5, 2015 by What Katie Read in Book Reviews / 4 Comments

Middle Grade Fantasy Review..

Middle Grade Fantasy Review: Saving Lucas Biggs (2014) by Marisa de los Santos & David Teague

Suggested age range: 10 and up The book says it’s geared for 8-12 year olds, and there are certainly 8 and 9 year olds that would appreciate the book, but more broadly I’d say, 10 and up. [Warning: There are instances of violence and death in this story—just a warning for parents who might want […]

Posted December 31, 2014 by What Katie Read in Book Reviews / 0 Comments

The Rich Beauty of The Crys..

The Rich Beauty of The Crystal Mirror by Tim Malnick & Katie Green

Suggested age range: 6 and up I received a copy from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. The Book: This is a delightful and thought provoking collection of beautifully illustrated stories that will keep readers thinking long after the last word is read. Just the kind of book we at Spirit of Children’s […]

Posted June 25, 2014 by What Katie Read in 2014 Reads, Book Reviews / 4 Comments

Sacred Stories & Melted..

Sacred Stories & Melted Ice Cream: A Snicker of Magic (2014) by Natalie Lloyd

Suggested age range: 8 and up Source: Copy Won from Emily at Oh Magic Hour “Home isn’t just a house or a city or a place; home is what happens when you’re brave enough to love people.” (p. 302) The Book: Felicity Pickle wants a home—but her family, which includes her mother, sister, and dog, […]

Posted June 5, 2014 by What Katie Read in Book Reviews / 9 Comments

An enchanted world, a power..

An enchanted world, a powerful book, and three children of destiny: “E” is for The Emerald Atlas: The Book of Beginnings (2011) by John Stephens #AtoZchallenge

The Book: An enchanted world filled with monsters, dwarves, and evil countesses. A book of power called The Emerald Atlas. Time travel. All these elements make up this story featuring three orphans, Kate, Michael, and Emma. Three special children who have moved from one orphanage to the next since they were very young, the trio […]

Posted April 5, 2014 by What Katie Read in Book Reviews / 12 Comments

Loving Life & Giant Don..

Loving Life & Giant Donuts: Review–Flora and Ulysses: The Illuminated Adventures (2013) by Kate DiCamillo

“He was going to leave the world without ever having tried a giant donut.” Flora and Ulysses: The Illuminated Adventures (2013) by Kate DiCamillo, illustrated by K.G. Campbell Suggested age range: 7 and up (Candlewick Press, 232 pages) “It is what I love about life, that things happen which I do not expect.” (210) The Book: […]

Posted February 25, 2014 by What Katie Read in Book Reviews / 15 Comments