Time travel is a hot topic right now, both for adult and young adult fiction. In The Travelers: Present in the Past, the first in a planned series of young adult novlels, Elaine Schmidt has done an excellent job of creating believable characters who travel to times and places that are both fascinating and historically accurate.
When Nona McDonald accidentally touches an antique quilt at her grandmother’s house, she is suddenly transported momentarily to another time and place. The incident means that her family must let her in on the family secret: They are all time travelers, rare individuals who are born with the ability to do so. Before Nona really has time to get over the shock and begin to learn the rules of time travel and how to control her travels, trouble strikes.
Things are disappearing from the secret time travel society and it seems that Nona’s family is being framed for the crimes. To keep her safe, they send her to stay with ancestors on a farm in 1898. There she meets the maker of the quilt, Winnie Longanecker, who is just Nona’s age at that time.
Nona is just beginning to adjust to life on the farm in this strange time period when another complication arises. A young boy, Henry Sanchez, literally drops into the barn, terrified and utterly unable to control his own time traveling. Unlike Nona, who has had at least minimal training, or Winnie, who has had no training but did know she was destined to be a Traveler, Henry had no forewarning and no idea of how to stop his fall through time or how to get back home.
Nona and Winnie have just begun to help him learn some control when trouble comes from Nona’s time and forces the children to learn some quick lessons about time travel, friendship, and team work as they attempt to protect Nona’s and Winnie’s families and get Henry back to his own time.
The story is exciting, rich with historical detail, and the children act like real children. Young adults and adults alike will find the story engrossing. The Travelers will leave readers anxious for the next installment in the Travelers’ adventures. This is an excellent, well-written addition to young adult time travel fiction.