Tuesday, September 21, 2010

A Different Day A Different Destiny - for Tween Tuesday

Tween Tuesday was started over at Green Bean Teen Queen as away to highlight awesome books for the 9-12 yr olds or Tweens. Any book highlighted on Tween Tuesday also counts for the In the Middle Reading Challenge! This week's book is:

Laing, Annette. A Different Day, A Different Destiny. Statesboro, Georgia: Confusion Press, 2010. Print. Snipesville Chronicles 2.
[Book cover credit: librarything.com/work/10082476/]

The Professor, doing what she does, manages to drop her modern calculator somewhere in the past. The changes this creates in the past causes changes that reach forward to our present day where it leaves a rift in time and drags Hannah, Brandon, and Alex back in time to right things. Again. Only this time they're all in 1851; Hannah in Scotland, Brandon in England, and Alex back in Snipesville where all their adventures started in the first place.

Laing has done it again! She's managed to cram a whole lot of information into an entertaining story (with a bit of actual danger thrown in this time) and created a dizzying web of characters connected to each other, the characters in Don't Know Where, Don't Know When, and Hannah, Brandon, and Alex's present day lives. Some of these connections are pretty obvious (the Gordons that Hannah lives with are the grandparents of the Scottish Mr. Gordon from the first book and a young girl in Balesworth who is the spitting image of Verity turns out to be her great-grandma), but that certainly didn't detract from their stories. And most of the connections I didn't see coming until the series of big reveals toward the end. I think that's the most amazing thing about these books for me: how some of the details all work out so seamlessly without being so obvious that I figured them out halfway through the book.

Hannah, Brandon, and Alex thought they had things bad in WWII England, but their experiences in the last book are nothing compared to what each of them goes through in 1851. Alone. In 1851, all three of them are considered adults, expected to earn a wage and take care of themselves. They each have to deal with this realization and figure out how to make their own ways and survive before they can even begin to think about how to find each other and get back home. The way that the book shifts between their stories was very clear and easy to follow. And for anyone (like me) for whom the year 1851 doesn't ring a bell, they are doing this all in the midst of preparations for Prince Albert's Great Exhibition and a growing disapproval across England and Scotland of the lingering institution of slavery in America.

Alex, still in Snipesville, comes face to face with slavery. As he travels to Savannah looking for work (with the help of a modern calculator he found in a cotton field to boost his mathematical skills), he is accompanied by a slave, Jupe, who is about his age. No matter how he tries to treat Jupe as an equal, Jupe never opens up to him or fully trusts him. Alex does manage to keep Jupe with him by lying about who legally owns him, keeping Jupe from being arrested, punished, or sold because he ran away. The situation with Jupe is complicated by the fact that Alex genuinely likes his employer, even though Mr. Thornhill buys and sells slaves in the course of his land sale transactions. This conflict eventually tears at Alex, and he remains upset and a bit broken at the close of the book. The question of how otherwise good people could participate in or even condone slavery is never answered here, which is probably as it should be.

Hannah and Brandon are free from the emotional and intellectual turmoil that Alex must endure in 1851. They're both left in horrible working and conditions by their trip back in time. Brandon "comes to" already in the pitch black dark of a coal mine (which seemed extraordinarily cruel to me) and eventually makes his way back to Balesworth. On the way he lives in a workhouse, becomes a professional mourner, and is, once again, a novelty to those around him. People assume that Brandon is a former slave, especially after he tells people that he was born in America. England, having recently abolished slavery in their own country, is on a crusade to have the same happen in America. Many people, especially the upper class women, want to know Brandon's thoughts on the subject and want to hear all about his experiences. The fact that he has to fabricate these experiences based on what he learned in history classes doesn't seem to bother anyone.

Hannah, of course, has the most tumultuous time. She's forced to be a piecer in a mill, first cotton and then jute, and earns pennies a week. She's fired twice and almost starves to death in between. She has a lot to complain about, but what Hannah is the most worried about is her lack of shopping opportunities. Her attitude is, once again, off-putting for most of the book, which is a shame as her storyline was the one I was the most interested in. At some point during her ordeal, it seems like Hannah may be learning something from the life she's living. She makes friends and finds herself in a family; she agitates for workers' rights (to hang out in the park) and gives an upper class woman who lives off mill profits the scare of her life by walking her through a tenement neighborhood. Still, as soon as she is rescued by the Professor and given a fancy dress and a bit of pocket money, all those hard-learned lessons fall right out of her head. She can't even be polite to a waiter, and why should she? It's his job to serve her. Ugh. I was really happy when the Professor ditched her again and she had to become a house maid.

Even with my disappointment in Hannah's character development, or lack thereof, I really enjoyed A Different Day, A Different Destiny. I also learned a lot about the working class in the British Empire during the Industrial Revolution and British involvement in the American Abolitionist Movement.

Book 1: Don't Know Where, Don't Know When
Book source: Review copy provided by the author. Thanks!


Jana said...

I have one of these books and I guess now I need to get started reading it! Thanks for the review.

Alison said...

I haven't heard about these. It sounds really cool. Thanks!
Alison Can Read

Lawral the Librarian said...

Jana - You should! I took awhile to get around to the first book too. The cover looked to "history book" to me, but once I started reading, I loved it!

Alison - They're not super well-know, but they're really informative while still being highly entertaining. Great for readers (like myself) who don't necessarily like history.