Time Jump Coins: An Adventure in Historic Philadelphia
Susan May Olson, Author & Publisher
Fiction, May 17, 2017
Suitable for Ages: 8-12
Themes: Time travel, Historic Philadelphia, Different Abilities, Diversity, Friendship
Synopsis (GoodReads): Imagine if you could time travel to the past just by rubbing the date on a penny!
Ten-year-olds Joey (Johanna) and Eli can time travel to any year between 1859 and 1909, simply by rubbing a coin from a set of Indian Head pennies! Old Philadelphia can be a lot of fun. They see the first phone and climb up the arm of the Statue of Liberty at the 1876 Centennial Exhibition. They get to go on a sleigh ride through a Wissahickon winter wonderland.
In between trips, Hal, proprietor of Hal’s Coins and Collectibles, teaches them tons of interesting facts about coins. However, their adventures take a serious turn when they wind up in a textile mill in Manayunk. They are shocked by the conditions for children working in the mill. They get mistaken for workers and are forced to work. They’ll be lucky if they don’t fall into the dangerous gears of the machines!
Joey wants a friend more than anything. The fact that Eli is a super-smart history whiz should make him the ideal time travel partner. But Joey has a bad temper, and Eli has Asperger’s Syndrome. Will their quirks drive them apart, or worse, get them stranded in the past forever?
Why I like this book:
Susan May Olson’s debut novel is a whimsical time-travel adventure to historic Philadelphia for Joey (Johanna) and Eli. Olson has spun a story of pure magic around an inherited 50-coin collection of Indian Head Cents, that when rubbed can take the two fifth graders back to Philadelphia between 1859-1909, and when pinched can return them home. What a clever way to travel back in time and experience history first-hand.
The main characters are memorable, but couldn’t be more opposite. Joey has a bad temper and Eli has different abilities and is socially awkward with people. But they share one thing in common — neither have friends. They are assigned to sit next to each other on the bus and they gain a respect for each other. Since Eli is a history buff, Joey shares her magic coin collection with him and its secret. Eli does much of the research for their coin jump leaps. Their growing friendship throughout the story is perhaps the highlight of the book for me.
The plot is clever, fast-paced and filled with adventure, wonder, mystery and danger — if you get lost, injured or lose the penny and don’t return in time. There are some secrets and surprises in the story. This is a great summer read and I predict tweens will enjoy the Time Jump Coins.
I especially liked Joey and Eli’s interaction with Hal, the coin collector. I had no idea that each coin has a mint mark on it beneath “In God We Trust.” P for Philadelphia, D for Denver, S for San Francisco and W for West Point.
Favorite entry from Joey’s Journal:
“The most popular kids are like a pop song you hear on the radio that everyone likes right away…And then there are other kids that are like a painting hanging on a wall that most people including you walk right by and never notice. But one day you walk by that painting and take a long look. You’re not even sure you like it at first, but you walk by slowly because you want to get to know it better. The more you get familiar with the painting, the more you realize how much there is to it and how cool it is. My friend Eli is that kind of painting.”
Susan May Olson is a former speech-language pathologist who lives with her family in Chapel Hill, N.C. Time Jump Coins is her debut novel. Visit Susan at her website, where she’s reviewed over 150 time travel stories.
Check other Middle Grade review links on author Shannon Messenger’s Marvelous Middle Grade Monday post.