Saturday 19 August 2023

A Message Through Time

A Message Through Time written by Anna Ciddor (Allen & Unwin) PB RRP $17.99 ISBN 9781761180125

Reviewed by Sarah Tegerdine

A Message Through Time is the stand-alone companion novel to Anna Ciddor’s earlier book; The Boy Who Stepped Through Time. Featuring a whole new cast of characters, Anna takes us on another rambunctious time-slip adventure.

Stepsiblings, Felix 11, and Zoe, 15 are holidaying with their parents in the south of France. It is their last day exploring the town of Arles, situated on the banks of the Rhone River. While the pair stroll the streets Felix is drawn to the ruins of an ancient Roman bathhouse. Felix begins to feed local pigeons crumbs from pizza crusts stashed in his pockets. Just as Zoe becomes frustrated and annoyed with her new stepbrother, Felix notices a pigeon tapping away at something wedged in the wall. It turns out to be an old bottle with a piece of paper curled up inside.

When Felix unravels the paper, a message is revealed: it declares to the recipient that they have just found an ancient Roman writing tool that will carry them through time. But there is no tool, and so the two continue their walk and go souvenir shopping. Unfortunately, however the shopping trip is a failure and as Felix wanders back to the ruins, Zoe happens upon a bronze stylus. Felix initially scoffs at it protesting that it’s nothing but an old nail and throws it away. Zoe sarcastically teases Felix about his misunderstanding of the Roman writing implement, he then quickly scurries to retrieve it.

Felix wastes no time and begins to etch away on the wall of the ruins, and before Zoe can stop him, they are immediately hurtled 1700 years into the past. Arles is better known now as Arelate, part of Gaul and the greater Roman Empire. Their senses are bombarded with foreign sights and smells and become caught up in a procession where they briefly meet a haughty high-born girl called Petronia and her lively, unruly dog, Furia.

Zoe finally breaks through to Felix and convinces him they must return to their own time as quickly as possible. But in their hustle, they accidently bring Petronia back with them. It isn’t too long before the siblings return their new acquaintance, but in doing so, high drama and even higher stakes ensue.

The new friends embark on a perilous journey and on the way Felix and Zoe learn to overcome their individual hang-ups of each other and form a strong familial bond.

A Message Through Time is a sensory delight with buckets of thoughtful historical detail which makes for a fully immersive experience for the reader. Guaranteed to encourage a wide range of discussion on a variety of topics and issues.

Recommended for children aged between 9 and 13 years who have a love for historical adventure/Time-slip fiction.

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