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Cover image for Once was a time
Once was a time
San Francisco : Chronicle Books, [2016]
Physical Description:
324 pages ; 19 cm
In the war-ravaged England of 1940, Lottie Bromley and her best friend Kitty McLaughlin are inseparable. Theyt read their favorite books, they play imaginary games, and they promise to stick together, no matter what the future may bring. But that future is more uncertain than they could imagine, as Lottie's scientist father has unearthed a staggering truth: time travel is real. And when this discovery attracts the attention of cruel forces, throwing the two girls into peril, Lottie is faced with an impossible choice between danger and safety, between remaining with her friend or following a portal to another time and place. In a split second, Lottie's life changes forever. Alone and far from home, unsure of Kitty's fate, she know that somehow, no matter what, she must find her way back to her friend. Beautifully rendered and utterly absorbing, Once Was a Time is an imaginative and timeless tribute to the unbreakable ties of friendship.
Conference Subject:


Call Number
J Sales, L.

On Order



In the war-ravaged England of 1940, Charlotte Bromley is sure of only one thing: Kitty McLaughlin is her best friend in the whole world. But when Charlotte's scientist father makes an astonishing discovery that the Germans will covet for themselves, Charlotte is faced with an impossible choice between danger and safety. Should she remain with her friend or journey to another time and place? Her split-second decision has huge consequences, and when she finds herself alone in the world, unsure of Kitty's fate, she knows that somehow, some way, she must find her way back to her friend. Written in the spirit of classic time-travel tales, this book is an imaginative and heartfelt tribute to the unbreakable ties of friendship.

Author Notes

Leila Sales is the author of the young adult novelsMostly Good Girls,Past Perfect,This Song Will Save Your Life, andTonight the Streets Are Ours. She grew up outside of Boston, Massachusetts, graduated with a degree in psychology from the University of Chicago, and now lives in Brooklyn, New York.Once Was a Time is her first book for younger readers. Learn more at LeilaSales.com and follow her on Twitter at @LeilaSalesBooks.

Reviews 5

School Library Journal Review

Gr 4-6-"Most people don't believe in time travel," begins this work of fantasy/sci-fi set in 1940s wartime London. Ten-year-old Lottie and her best friend, the anagram-obsessed Kitty, certainly do. Lottie's dad is engaged in top-secret scientific research that may help win the war. Sales's story takes an abrupt detour as Lottie travels to suburban Wisconsin in the year 2013, without any clothes, without any clues, and, worst of all, without Kitty. With the help of a friendly librarian, some clueless but kind foster parents, and a geeky outcast artist, Lottie finds a new life, but she can't forget her dearest friend. She's determined to find her again, though time and space themselves stand in the way. Packed with literary allusions, meditations on friendship, and historical/geographical tidbits, this book is a bit of an unwieldy read, and its never-ending stream of coincidence, luck, and nice people can get a little wearing (has any Child Protective Services interview ever gone so well with so little paperwork?). The science is fluff, but the book shines in its portrayal of friendship, both the intense bond between Lottie and Kitty and the blossoming trust between Lottie and her new friend, Jake. VERDICT This genre mash-up will appeal to fans of Rebecca Stead's When You Reach Me (Random, 2009) and Madeleine L'Engle's A Wrinkle in Time.-Katya Schapiro, Brooklyn Public Library © Copyright 2016. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Publisher's Weekly Review

Ten-year-old Charlotte "Lottie" Bromley lives near war-torn London in 1940, which means food rationing, blackouts, and seeing little of her preoccupied father, a renowned scientist who is determined to discover the existence of time travel. Lottie finds enjoyment with her best friend Kitty, but when Lottie's father goes missing, Lottie and Kitty are thrust into a dangerous situation that finds Lottie journeying to 2013 Wisconsin, where she discovers that she will never see her best friend-or anyone else she loves-again. Like many time-travel stories, Lottie's adjustment to an unfamiliar era provides opportunities for lighthearted moments, such as using the Internet for the first time or eating at a diner with a 12-page menu. Lottie's fortitude and resolve make her an admirable and sympathetic protagonist, but the real heart of this story lies in her friendship with Kitty. It's a relationship that haunts Lottie (and will haunt readers, as well) until Sales (Tonight the Streets Are Ours) brings Lottie's journey to an unexpected but satisfying end. Ages 10-up. Agent: Stephen Barbara, Inkwell Management. (Apr.) © Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.

Horn Book Review

In World War II England, Lottie and Kitty are best friends. But when they are kidnapped by (putative) Nazis who threaten to shoot them if Lotties scientist father doesnt give up the secrets of time travel, Lottie sees a chance to escape through a fortuitously occurring time portal and takes itleaving Kitty behind. Randomly arriving in 2013 Sutton, Wisconsin, Lottie soon settles in with a new foster family, but her guilt drives her to the library in search of answers to what happened to her friend. Then one day, three years later, a thunderboltLottie improbably finds a postcard from Kitty tucked into a copy of A Little Princess, their favorite book from childhood. Sales handles time travel lightly, establishing it as a quasi-natural phenomenon, which allows her to play with perspectives on time and aging without getting bogged down in questions of why and how. Lotties fish-out-of-water disembarkation in the twenty-first century is an amusing diversion; more involving is a school-story subplot that asks Lottie to give up her place in the popular-girl clique and befriend the class nerd as the only means of following the postcard trace to Kitty. An over-the-top climax may test the patience of readers who like their puzzles airtight but will delight those who prefer to revel in the vast mysteries of time and coincidence, with only just enough explanation to satisfy them. anita l. burkam(c) Copyright 2016. The Horn Book, Inc., a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Kirkus Review

The friendship of two 10-year-old English girls is tested when one travels through a portal to the future. In 1940, food rationing and fear of bombs are the backdrop for best friends Lottie and Kitty, who care more about anagrams and playing make-believe than the war. Lottie's scientist father researches time travel, work that's governed by the Official Secrets Act and coveted by the Nazis. The girls are kidnapped and taken to a cellar where Germans are trying to coerce Lottie's father into revealing his research. Lottie sees a shimmering portal and leaps through just as shots are fired, landing in a small Wisconsin town in 2013. She's befriended by a helpful librarian and a boy her own age named Jake. The passage of three years confirms her father's hypothesis that there is no returning to her own time. Lottie adjusts to a new school and life with a foster family, when she finds a postcard from Kitty addressed to her and stuck in a library book, raising her hopes that her friend is still somewhere to be found. Lottie's first-person account has a lighthearted tone, with lots of dialogue and details contrasting childhood in wartime England with modern-day America. Her transition to her new life is awkward but realistic, and the focus of this charming novel is always on friendship and loyalty. Rewarding and uplifting. (Fantasy. 9-13) Copyright Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.

Booklist Review

On October 18, 1940, Lottie Bromley celebrated her tenth birthday in Bristol, England. In 2013, however, she is still 10. Explanation: at the onset of WWII, Lottie's father, physics professor Robert Bromley, believes he is on the verge of unveiling a key component in the development of time-travel portals. Lottie and her dearest friend, Kitty, are huge proponents of Bromley's theories. Unfortunately, so too is the British government, and when Bromley can't deliver anything more than years of research, all of their lives are put on the line. Miraculously, Lottie escapes a fatal encounter by hurdling through an extraordinarily coincidental time portal. Orphaned in the financially strapped town of Sutton, Wisconsin, in 2013, Lottie is determined to understand her impossible past and, more important, find the now elderly Kitty. Young readers will relish Sales' subtle clues and humor throughout, and though a handful of characters feel static, the bond between Lottie and Kitty and eventually Lottie and her new pal, Jake proves to be both tender and unstoppable.--Shemroske, Briana Copyright 2016 Booklist