In the Keep of Time by Margaret J. Anderson

In the Keep of Time

Scholastic Books, 1977.

I spend most of my reading time these days reading just published or soon-to -be published books. Recently, however, I went back to this favorite from my childhood. I remembered the basic premise of the book, though not the details and wondered if I’d still like it. I thoroughly enjoyed reading In the Keep of Time again, and it didn’t feel dated or too slow to develop as older books can.

It’s a familiar set up; four siblings, two boys and two girls find themselves in Scotland for the summer with a relative they don’t really know who will take care of them while their parents are away. In The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe the children begin in the English countryside and are transported to Narnia. In Swallows and Amazons, The Penderwicks, and The Boxcar Children, the children are this side of the pond and manage to have adventures simply by being left on their own in the real world. In the Keep of Time, as the title suggests, an ancient castle and a magical key transport the children back in time to the 15th century. Immediately there’s trouble, not only are the children out of their proper time, but the youngest, Ollie, seems to have had her body and mind meshed with a little girl from that long-ago time. Now they’ve got to figure out how to extricate Ollie and also travel back to their own century.

Readers who enjoy history will enjoy this book. The scenes vividly depict the way of life for the Scots in the 15th century, and the children get caught up in a time of raids and battles between the Scots and the English. There’s also a good bit of tension involved when it comes to the question of whether or not they’ll be able to make it back to their own time.

I figured this book would long be out of print, and it is. But there are used copies to be had online. It is also available in Kindle format, as is one of the two sequels, In the Circle of Time. I found the second sequel, Mists of Time, which is not available on Kindle, in my library network. I’ve never read the other books, but now that I’ve reread In the Keep of Time, I may well seek them out.

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