Haven't read the other Bean books? Don't worry--this one stands alone just fine.
Gracie Ingraham's a sophomore in high school when the Cuban Missile Crisis convinces her time-traveling parents that the safest place for their daughter would be far in the past. But her dad's the mayor of Stormkill, and can't take her himself. And her mom, a beloved local art teacher, feels too much responsibility for her students to leave. Grace is left to navigate her first trip in time with a smooth-talking, Corvair driving neighbor.
So maybe that's why she ends up in 2018.
Here's her arrival at the Stormkill train station in early February of that year:
I went to the future! That made me feel shivery-sick inside. I didn’t mean to do it, though! I really didn’t! If you didn’t mean to, maybe you wouldn’t get in trouble.
But wait a minute. If I really had Traveled far enough forward for things to have changed thismuch, it was proof that the world had survived! That thought should have had me celebrating, but I was way too busy being lost.
My clothes were all the wrong colors. Everyone else was wearing grey and blackand I had on green and orange plaid slacks under my corduroy jacket. Nobody seemed to notice. Maybe I didn’t look strange enough to make people stare. I wandered back over to the coffee stand and saw a copy of The New York Timesfor sale. It looked the same—sort of. But the photos were in color! And the date said February 12, 2018. So that’s where I’d landed. I wanted to read the news stories, but I didn’t get any further than the price. It was two-fifty, even more than coffee.
I sat back down on one of the ugly chairs to think. Commuters hurried through the station—a parade of padded coats that looked like quilts with zippers on them. Some people wore black leather jackets and dungarees—that’s what I called jeans until I came here. The glowing green numerals on the clock over the coffee stand across the room said 9:25.
I decided to see if I could think my way into Traveling home again. I didn’t even care if someone saw me doing it. I was tired from having stayed up half the night before, listening to my parents worry and plan. I closed my eyes and tried to relax. I focused on Mom and her pretty apron, about the kids I was just getting to know in my new classes. I didn’t have a real best friend, but there was Debbie Gold, who liked to sew as much as I did, and she had a big brother on varsity football. Everyone said he was much smarter than he seemed. He had a great laugh…
“It’s the time and the place. Go on back, Gracie,” I whispered to myself over and over, but I didn’t Travel. I fell asleep instead…
And then someone was shaking my arm. I jolted awake in the too-bright train station to a man about my grandfather’s age. He was skinny, and he didn’t look much taller than me. His round glasses had clear plastic rims, and his reddish-blond beard was partly white. I could tell he was a priest from his black shirt and white collar, but he was wearing it with jeans and one of those padded coats I swear I will never get used to, even though I have one myself now.
“Gracie?”he said. “Gracie Ingraham?”
His voice was a whisper. “I’m Father Higbee. I’m—a Traveler, like you. I saw you on your way. You seem to have taken an … unexpected turn.” His eyes were a pretty greenish-blue. They looked kind. And worried.
“You saw me coming? Are you a Master Traveler?”
He smiled and put a finger to his lips. “We don’t call them that anymore, but yes. You must be simply terrified. I’m here to help.”
“Are you going to bring me back home?”
Father Higbee’s eyes got even more worried, and the corners of his lips turned down. He looked even sadder than my parents had the night before. “This is complicated stuff, Gracie. Very.” He pointed at my suitcase. “Yours?”
What happens next? You'll know by Labor Day!
And I'll be back in the USA by then. I'm writing these words from Amsterdam in The Netherlands, on a houseboat in the old Jewish Quarter, a now-very-gentrified section of town that is still fascinating, especially for someone like me who loves to dream about traveling in time. We're here until the end of next week.
Amsterdam is very much the father of New York City, and it has the same multicultural open arms--but a European sweetness instead of our toughness. I like it. As long as you stay away from the hordes near Centraal Station and the Red Light District, it is a very livable city. Every evening that the weather is good enough, Ken and I climb onto the roof of the houseboat and watch the traffic on the canal. Our favorites are the you-drive-em boats with confused tourists trying to avoid being squashed by the giant Lovers Canal Tours behemoths. It's probably not nice to laugh at them...
By the way, if you find yourself here and you need a canal tour, go look up Those Dam Boat Guys. Those are little boats that can get into the smaller, more interesting canals, and the captains call themselves Pirates. A little hipster-cute, but fun.
Last night, Ken and I took in the last night of the Grachten Festival--a big group of percussion students from the local college playing Gamelan-style jazz on a huge barge in a canal about a mile from our place. Total fun. About two thirds of the way through, some local showed up in his little boat which was outfitted with a large stuffed lion head with a mechanism to make it open its mouth. He cruised around the musicians a few times, silently roaring. That's Amsterdam in a nutshell. (Heavy on the nut)
"Okay," I said, shaking my head.
"Why not?" said the Dutch woman next to me.
Or as Zak would say, "Bizarre!"
Hey. I've got a new book! Watch this space.