Once Was a Time
Author: Leila Sales
Publisher: Chronicle Books
Publication Date: April 5th, 2016
Genre/Format: Science Fiction/Historical Fiction/Novel
GoodReads Summary: 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.
What I Think: I smile at how much I love this book every time I think of it. I love Charlotte and Kitty and their friendship and this story of how time travel pulls them apart. It's charming and excruciating at the same time as Charlotte tries to make her way back to Kitty.
The snatches of text below show how Leila uses her description of the setting to bring us into Charlotte's life. She describes through the different senses to help the reader be in the moment. As a mentor text, these samples and others from Once Was a Time are perfect for soaking up descriptive writing and inviting writers to try it in their own work. I believe descriptive writing is important even in non-fiction and these are examples of showing in fiction writing that can carry over into showing in non-fiction writing. Pay attention to the moment - stop and notice everything: what you see, smell, hear, feel, taste...write it down and bring it to life.
Snatch of Text:
"Jake and I went into the library, which was strangely chilly, just like the car. But other than that, and a few objects that I didn't recognize, it looked like the Bristol library. Scattered lamps and desks, a few comfortable-looking armchairs, and row after row of books. It even smelled the same as my library, the musty odor of paper that I loved more than any perfume." (p. 61)
"I turned to look back out the window, at the lush green fields, the blue sky dotted with fluffy white clouds, the low scrub trees, and the occasional village with its red-tile-roofed clusters of buildings. I listened to the scraping of Jake's pencils and the beeping of Noah's cell phone game and the rustling of Rachel's book pages and the clatter of wheels on train tracks, and I tried not to think about how each repetition of those noises brought me a little bit closer to Kitty - or to nothing at all." (p. 246)
Writing Prompts: Think about the moment you are in right now or close your eyes and remember or imagine a moment you want to describe. Notice everything: what you see, smell, hear, feel, taste...write it down and bring it to life.