It's a time travel with a sister and brother, and a new friend they've met in their new town. This book, although a work of fiction, provided historical background information.
Heres the scoop on Don't Know Where, Don't Know When: Hannah Dias and her brother Alex are moving from California to the most boring place in the world, Snipesville, Georgia, where nothing exciting like time travel ever happens, or does it? If ever there were three children in need of a time travel adventure, Hannah, Alex, and Brandon are surely them. Minor spoiler, Laing never really gives us a concrete reason for the time traveling or the professors motivation for sending the children through time other than to teach them about history. And a conventional time travel story would not have worked here as lucky for Brandon, the children do not travel to the Georgia of yesteryear, but instead they wind up in England during World War Two. They arrive in butt ugly grey uniforms with English money in their pockets and fake identities. No amount of explanation is likely to convince the reader that children in Georgia randomly travel through time to another country at the whims of a history professor, so why bother with an explanation? How, then, should a writer deal with the subject of race in a middle grade book about time travel featuring a multi racial cast? Does the writer ignore race completely and focus instead on the fun of a good time travel story? That approach might work if the multi racial cast is traveling to caveman times or some other period where race would not be an issue, or if the story itself has little to do with an actual historicaly acurate time. But if the multi racial cast travels to a time and place such as the 1940s and the details of that time are presented accurately in all other respects, the issue of race must be addressed. He is referred to as colored and a negro and asked to leave the library and then he somehow is separated from Hannah and Alex and travels to 1915 England when race is not as much of an issue. If youre a history buff or you have children who are eager to learn, this is a book youll want to check out.
I found it educational (in a good way) to learn of the hardships of English people during WW I and WW II--largely the historical settings.
It has a great storyline that children will find engaging.
BUT, if you stick it out through Hannah's whining about how unfair her life is (actually, this continues throughout the book), they'll meet up with Brandon and end up in WWII England where things get very cool. In WWII England, Hannah, Alex and Brandon are all evacuees for the London, sent to the English countryside to escape the Blitz. Also, black people weren't all that common in England during this time, so Brandon spends the entire book being kind of a novelty. Though Brandon makes it through his time traveling experience suffering from nothing more than hateful words, the black people he meets both during The Great War (WWI) and WWII do not fare as well. Also, given that he's in the same town, Brandon's experiences in 1915 England have some really close ties to the people he, Hannah and Alex meet in WWII England.
Time travel can be really confusing but this author makes it pretty easy to follow. She introduces a few major characters and storylines and then managed to connect them all back together, which was impressive to me (the Prologue was completely confusing and when it all started to make sense there was a huge light bulb moment for me :) I also loved how this book looked at the 'little things', everyday life for the English people in the countryside during WWII. It was interesting to read about because I never really thought about POC in England during this time but I would have just assumed they were as bad as white Americans. Don't Know Where, Don't Know When is an original read that concerns how ordinary people lived in the extraordinary time of WWII.
To occupy their time, their dad enrolls them in summer camps at the local community college, which is where they meet Brandon. The community college buildings disappear, their clothes change, and they suddenly find themselves outside of London during World War II. When London is bombed, Brandon ends up going even further back in time to 1915 and the days of World War I. But I suspect that kids reading this books wouldnt have the same concerns about Hannah that I did. I think girls and boys aged 9 to 12 are more likely to see this is an adventure and happily read about what all three kids experienced when they went back in time.
Raise your hand if History was the subject that you groaned over in school. I realized then that learning about the people who lived during these times really helps drive the subject home. Annette Laing and my professor have truly changed my whole notion of History as a subject, and I couldn't be happier. Annette executes a perfect story that will have you thinking, "That really happened back then?" and leave you audibly gasping at times.
To readers who aren't cranky old people like myself, in case the following comments make it sound like this book is nothing but a history lesson, let me say that Hannah, Alex, and Brandon, the three young time travellers, have plenty of interesting adventures, get into some tight scrapes, and act heroically before it's all over.
A clever and charming time-travel adventure." --Kirkus Reviews A Different Day A Different Destiny "Laings combination of historical detail and sheer sense of fun carry through and help make the story an enjoyable read.