________________ CM . . . . Volume IV Number 3 . . . . October 3, 1997

cover Three Against Time.

Margaret Taylor.
Victoria, BC: Orca Book Publishers, 1997.
137pp. paper, $7.95.
ISBN 1-55143-067-3.

Subject Headings:
Space and time-Fiction.
Barkerville (B.C.)-Gold discoveries-Fiction.

Grades 4 - 7 / Ages 9 - 12.
Review by Jennifer Sullivan.



His heart hammered, but only in anticipation. What was wrong with his brothers? He rattled the can of rocks he'd taken from Mike and waited for something to move. When nothing stirred he started forward. At the same instant, an overpowering sense of danger galvanized Mike into action. He lunged, grabbing Rob's T-shirt. "NO!" he shouted as his fingers caught at the fabric and closed tight. But the shirttail dissolved like gossamer as it and Rob melted into a black void.
Margaret Taylor's first book is a conventional time-slip fantasy that takes place near Bowron Lake, British Columbia, in 1995 and 1868. Mike, Rob and Grant Smith are three brothers on a camping and fishing expedition with their parents. A leisurely yet uneventful holiday turns into an adventure when a gold-panning excursion leads the boys to a sinister looking old cabin covered in moss and weeds. The cabin inexplicably draws the boys into its dark recesses where they travel back in time to a period more than 100 years earlier.

      The boys soon discover that the cabin is the dwelling of a friendly prospector, George Howard. Although Howard finds the boys' sudden appearance and unusual clothing startling, he is prepared to welcome them into his home. This is the beginning of a great adventure for the brothers who have little concern about how they will get back to the future -- they are happy to fish for their dinner and stake out gold claims with George. When the boys travel to Barkerville, a town that they have visited many times with their parents, they are amazed at all the changes that have taken place within the last hundred years. But while the boys are gifted with knowledge of the past--a dreadful fire destroyed Barkerville in 1868 - it doesn't occur to them to warn the mining town's inhabitants about the impending disaster.

      Taylor employs many conventions of time-travel in her novel. A talisman, in this case the miner's cabin, ushers the boys into the past. When the boys are in the past, time stops, (their digital watches don' t work) and, when they return to the present, they discover that only an hour has passed. Typical of many time travel stories, the brothers are summoned into the past to solve a problem of today. Taylor successfully bridges the worlds of past and present when the boys, with the help of the knowledge they have acquired in the past, rescue George Howard's great grand-daughter from an untimely demise. But, while Taylor embraces many of the elements of time travel, she also ignores some of the genre's most important features. Journeys into the past allow kids the freedom to act without parental supervision, and to escape, temporarily, from the boundaries of reality. In this case, there is so much authorial intrusion that the fantastic elements of the story are lost. Readers know, for example, before the boys even see the cabin that something formidable and foreboding awaits them: "Yet within hours the brothers would be embroiled in a struggle for survival that would test their ability, and their faith in themselves to the limit against forces beyond their imagination." A further inhibitor to the fantastic are the descriptive passages which are interspersed throughout the story. These jarring references to Bowron Lake and its surrounding area read like a travelogue and interfere with the action and the development of the plot.

      All in all, this is an entertaining yet predictable trip to an earlier time. The cover, which depicts the sinister stare of an evil claim-jumper, is sure to attract kids who enjoy being scared.


Jennifer Sullivan works within the Canadian Children s Literature Service of The National Library of Canada.

To comment on this title or this review, send mail to cm@umanitoba.ca.

Copyright © 1997 the Manitoba Library Association. Reproduction for personal use is permitted only if this copyright notice is maintained. Any other reproduction is prohibited without permission.

Published by
The Manitoba Library Association
ISSN 1201-9364