I’ll start with my bias alert: This book is by a member of my writing group, kc Dyer! kc is the author of the Eagle Glen trilogy, about a girl named Darrell Connor who travels through time to Scotland, Italy, England, and Spain at crucial points in history and deals with villainous intrigues; she is also the author of Ms. Zephyr’s Notebook, about three kids who share a teacher—and secrets—on a hospital ward.
With A Walk Through a Window, Dyer returns to time travel, this time in her native Canada. Our intrepid traveler is Darby Christopher, a teenage girl whose parents send her to a small town on Prince Edward Island for the summer. Darby stays with her grandparents, but as the book begins, two things are apparent: Darby doesn’t want to be there, and something is wrong with her grandfather.
While exploring the neighborhood on her skateboard, a cranky Darby meets a boy named Gabriel who apparently lives in an abandoned house. After hearing her complaints about being stuck in a small town instead of Toronto, Gabriel pulls her into a series of time travel adventures. A shadowy Darby joins the Inuits crossing the Bering Strait, the Irish fleeing the Potato Famine to worse troubles on a coffin ship, and finally some later immigrants who turn out to have a direct connection to her own family.
Along the way, Darby loses her attitude, caught up in her curiosity about the past. She also grows a little more patient with her grandpa, who is beginning to suffer from Alzheimer’s. In fact, the subplot with Darby and her grandfather, which at first seems less important in the book, eventually takes center stage, becoming especially poignant in the final chapter or two.
This book is about history, but it is also about family. As the author gently reminds us, our families make us who we are. Like the inuksuk, a small Native Canadian sculpture made out of a hodge-podge of rocks and used to good symbolic effect in A Walk Through a Window, our lives are composed of bits and pieces of experience and heritage. Take a walk with Darby, and discover what it means to come from somewhere.