The Root Cellar

by Lunn, Janet. (Puffin, 1985 ISBN 0 14031 835 6) Novel. 247 pages. Grades 5+.
This book was reviewed by Carol Otis Hurst in Teaching K-8 Magazine.


Rose is an orphan who has been living in New York City, luxuriously but lovelessly. When she is twelve years old, she is packed off to live with relatives in an old farm house in Ontario. Among these strange and exuberant relatives, Rose is lonely and unhappy... until one day she discovers an old root cellar- and stumbles into the world of the 1860's. There she becomes involved with Susan and her brother Will. Time as reached through the root cellar moves differently than it does in the world of Rose's Aunt Nan and soon Susan and Will are grown and Will has failed to return from the Civil War. Rose and Susan must journey to Washington, D. C. to rescue him. Rose's knowledge of present day New York becomes useful in this 1864 trip. Rose must learn to function in both time periods and, to her amazement, the previously unloved girl finds love in each period. As the book continues we learn a great deal about the Civil War era.

Students might like to read other time travel stories and to look for and identify the vehicle for travel in each. In The Root Cellar, of course, the title tells the vehicle but in other such books the device is less obvious to the reader or to the main character.

Time moves differently in the two time periods covered in The Root Cellar as it does in Tom's Midnight Garden. Whether this complicates unnecessarily or not is another topic for discussion.

In The Root Cellar the adult characters of the past, at least one of them, is part of the present and Rose and Susan meet again. A similar reunion takes place in Time for Andrew. The presence or lack thereof in other time travel novels might make another topic for discussion. What does this technique accomplish? What do the non-reunion time travel books do for closure?


Related Books

cover art

Grades 5 - 8
Shades of Gray by Carolyn Reeder. Novel. 160 pages.
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Twelve-year-old Will's family in Winchester, Virginia has been wiped out in the Civil War. His father fought bravely in the Confederate Army, his sisters died of a disease that Will is convinced was carried by the Yankees and his mother died soon afterward. Now he's come to live with Uncle Jed who refused to take sides in the war and whom Will's family considered a traitor and a coward, a feeling shared by most of Jed's neighbors. Read More in our Featured Book Teachers Guide with discussion questions, extension activities, related books and links.


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