Through the Looking Glass Children's Book Reviews

Time Spies: Signals in the Sky

Time Spies: Signals in the Sky

Candice F. Ransom
Historical Fiction
For ages 7 to 9
Mirrorstone, 2007   ISBN: 978-0786943531

When the new Travel Guide arrives at the Gray Horse Inn, Mattie and her brother Alex are so busy arguing that they don’t even notice him at first. Of course once they do, they are thrilled to meet him and are eager to see if he will give them any clues as to where they will be going for their next adventure. Though they listen carefully to what he tells them and though they study the postcard that he writes, they have no idea where they will end up this time.

It is only after they meet a young man called John Doyle at their destination, after they have been whirled back through time, that they find out where they are. It is 1863 and they are in Virginia not far from the town of Fredericksburg. John is a Private in the U.S. Army Signal Corps and he spends his time sending messages for the Union Army from signal post to signal post. The children learn that the America they know and love is, at this time, being torn apart by civil war. The town of Fredericksburg was badly damaged during a battle not long before and is now under Confederate occupation.

What is particularly touching is John’s own story. Alex, Maddie and Sophie discover that John has a brother who is a Confederate soldier. The last time they met the brothers parted in anger and now they fight for opposite sides in this civil war. The children quickly guess that their mission on this journey is to bridge the gap between these two brothers and to give them the chance to reconcile their differences. Can they find a way to bring these two men, one dressed in blue and one dressed in grey together?

Once again Candice Ransome has created an exciting story which is not only entertaining but which also provides young readers with interesting information about an important time in history. In this book she describes the events which took place in Virginia around the town of Fredericksburg (which is where she lives) and she also describes the roles that spies and signalmen had in the American Civil War.

At the back of the book a ‘letter’ from the Travel Guide provides further background information about the Civil War and there is a “Signal Like A Spy” activity which children are sure to want to try.