By: Suzanne Roche
Publisher: Oak Lei Press
Publication Date: October 2015
Reviewed by: Anita Lock
Date: September 29, 2015
Author Suzanne Roche's first book in a new series for middle-grade readers takes a look at immigration near the turn of the 20th century where a strange connection with an antique encyclopedia catapults siblings to an eye-opening adventure on Ellis Island and New York City.
Life drastically changes for Peri Gaspar and brothers Henry and Max Hawkins when Peri's father marries the boys' mom. Used to being the oldest, twelve-year-old Henry is now sandwiched between Peri and his nine-year-old brother Max. On the flip side, Peri would rather snuggle up with a good book on the fainting sofa at her grandfather's antique store. Instead, her relaxation is interrupted with having to make sure her new stepbrothers focus on their homework. Checking up on the boys, Peri discovers that Max has found a collection of old keys sitting atop her grandfather's prized antique encyclopedia, which she had negligently left out. But just as she grabs the book, Max places his hand on the keys and the trio is instantly transported onto a ship headed for Ellis Island.
A bit of a history aficionado, Peri immediately spots Annie Moore - the first immigrant to come through Ellis Island - and realizes that she and her stepbrothers have traveled back to 1892. As they find keys, the trio advances a few years each time. Eventually, Peri, Henry, and Max make it to the tenements and are shocked by the immigrants' deplorable environs. But with the support of journalist Jacob Riis, they reach out to the neighborhood. Peri and Henry begin to realize that the personal issues they have between them pale in comparison to the trials and tribulations the immigrants face. Whether or not the two are willing to admit and address their fears is another story. But to complicate matters, the siblings have no idea how they're going to get back home.
Rising author Suzanne Roche introduces history to youth by weaving in past and present realities in the first book of her new "Time to Time" series. Opening with a brief overview of the time period, Roche quickly delves into common youth issues prevalent in blended families via Peri, Henry, and Max, her principle characters. From the get go, Roche's narrative is sated with an incessant tension between the oldest siblings. Yet amid the rivalry, Roche throws their lives into a tizzy when they not only have to confront a foreign environment, but also have no choice except to interact with people who are suddenly thrust into poverty.
Roche's third person narrative is a mix of storytelling and engaging dialogue that is separated into five different aspects of the time period. Aptly laced with history, Roche punctuates her plot with a combination of primary sources and illustrations. In addition, Roche keeps her narrative moving with a consistent flow of cliffhangers to the very end. To round out Roche's historical setting, she closes with an appendix that includes a wonderful array of games, projects (recipes and toy making), and educational quizzes.
Roche's approach to capture the attention of youth is nothing less than refreshing. Stay tuned for her next installment of another Peri, Henry, and Max tale, Stumbling On A Tale, earmarked for fall of 2015.
Quill says: Making It Home is certain to be a winning addition to both home and school environs!