No Ordinary Thing

Holiday House. Oct. 2020. 240p. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780823444229.
Gr 4-7–Twelve-year-old Chinese American Adam Lee Tripp lives in 1999 New York City with his Uncle Henry, who owns Biscuit Basket Bakery. A loner, Adam connects with the past when a chance visitor, J.C. Walsh, gives him a prophetic message about attics and adventures. In the attic, Adam finds his late parents’ snow globe that time travels. By time traveling, Adam learns that three artifacts control time: Past, present, and future. As he meets people connected to a candle factory fire, Adam yearns to use time travel to unravel tragedy, perhaps even bring back his parents. Schmidt uses a third-person direct address style. As she tells Adam’s story, she provides hints and sentiments that provide a warm, comforting backdrop, as do her narrative metaphors and sensory details of the bakery. Adam is sympathetic, both because of his lonely childhood and his empathy for everyone he meets. The people Adam encounters and those connected with the three artifacts are all intriguing, and a greedy time thief adds a dangerous element to the last few chapters. While Schmidt makes connections between everyone Adam meets and his future, there’s a curious, incomplete feeling to the story. Adam sees and learns many things, but he is an observer to much of the action, and the story lacks forward propulsion.
VERDICT Elegant writing and an imaginative conceit may compensate for a passive story. Purchase where Kathryn Littlewood’s Bliss or Rebecca Stead’s When You Reach Me are popular.

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