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Seven Stories Up by Laurel Snyder

Seven Stories Up

by Laurel Snyder

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While there is a necessity for realistic fiction and fantasy in young adult literature, whether it be middle grade or high school, there is also a tremendous need, in my opinion, for readable fiction that doesn’t delve into issues or take you on unimaginable flights of fantasy. While Seven Stories Up by Laurel Snyder has a touch of fantasy (time travel), it is the heartwarming story of two young girls.

I’ll start by saying that I’ve been Facebook friends with Laurel Snyder for a while, but I don’t know how I got there…probably through some other author Facebook friend. We’ve never met, but I did see her at the Kids Author Carnival at the Jefferson Market Library where she played Pictionary with a group of middle grade kids. She was lively and animated and, based on that alone, I bought Seven Stories Up. I certainly wasn’t disappointed.

It is 1987 and twelve year old Annie and her mother, Ruby, who live in Atlanta drive to Baltimore because Annie’s grandmother, Molly, is dying. Molly lives in the old hotel that her parents owned, way up on the 7th floor. Molly and Ruby have not gotten along for quite a while.

It’s late and while Ruby is in with her mother, Annie gets ready for bed. Under her pillow she finds an old sleeping mask, the elastic all stretched out and the beads falling off. She puts it on and, magic, she wakes up in her grandmother’s bed in 1937, when Molly herself was twelve.

Now we all know that when a time traveller interacts with a past time, it changes the present. But that’s not the main part of this story. The story is about two 12 year old girls becoming friends, living life and leaving an everlasting impact on each other. It’s about someone from the 1980s learning what the ’30s were actually like, while leaving a 1930s girl with a little taste of the future.

Annie and Molly are charming characters and they act like true 12 year olds…they get into mischief. Snyder’s portrayal of 1930s Baltimore is startling in many respects. She brought to mind things I hadn’t thought about and will certainly provide food for thought for readers.

So, if you want to sit back and smile while reading, Seven Stories Up might just be the means to do that. ( )
  EdGoldberg | Jun 6, 2014 |
Annie is excited that she's finally going to meet her mysterious grandmother and even more thrilled when she finds out that she lives in an old hotel. But why is her single mother so upset? Is her grandmother really that sick? Annie's first encounter with her grandmother is a shock - she's not the loving relative she'd hoped to meet. She could never like this horrible old woman, even if she is dying. But the next morning Annie wakes up...somewhere else. Fifty years in the past to be precise, where she meets a young girl who's living the hotel. Molly is tired of being cooped up and feels lonely and neglected. Annie is her first friend and the two click almost at once. When Annie realizes who Molly really is, it's almost as big a shock as time traveling - her new friend is the same person as the horrible old woman she met? Annie determines to change the future of her her new friend, but will she change her own future as well?

This is the kind of historical fiction/friendship story that a certain subset of kids, mostly girls, will devour. That subset never included me, so it's hard for me to judge the merits of the story. The interactions between the characters and the historical details are very realistic and make the story feel more, well, real. I wonder though, if the audience for this type of book isn't shrinking. It seems like more and more kids ask for contemporary realistic fiction, fantasy, adventure, etc. Historical fiction, especially this type of character-driven story, seems to be sinking in popularity. Unless it's based around major historical events, the more disastrous and exciting the better, it's a hard sell. It requires more empathy than many kids seem able to produce, especially when it features a child reconciling a difficult adult with the child they might have been.

Verdict: The writing is strong and the historical setting very well done. I'd call this a solid mid-list title. If you have kids who like this genre and the budget to support their interest, go for it. Otherwise it's an additional purchase. Snyder's Bigger than a Breadbox (which this is a sort of prequel to) did ok for us, not spectacularly, but enough to make this worth adding, so we'll just have to see.

ISBN: 9780375869174; Published 2014 by Random House; Review copy provided by the publisher
  JeanLittleLibrary | Mar 23, 2014 |
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0375869174, Hardcover)

In this companion to Bigger than a Bread Box, a leap back in time and an unlikely friendship changes the future of one family forever.

Annie has never even met her grandmother before.  In fact, she’s never had much family to speak of.  So when she and her mother pull into the drive of her grandmother’s home in Baltimore, Annie can hardly contain her excitement!

But when she actually meets her grandma, the bitter old woman doesn’t seem like someone Annie could ever love, or miss.  Until one magical, stormy night changes everything.  

It’s impossible that Annie could have jumped back in time. . . right? But here she is in 1937— the year her grandmother was just her age!  

Molly is an invalid. She lives by herself, on the top floor of a hotel.  She seems a little lonely, but friendly and fun, nothing like the horrible old woman Annie just met. 

Annie entices Molly down from her room, and together the two girls roam. They sneak around the grand hotel, and explore the brick streets of old Baltimore. Carnivals and taxis, midnight raids on the kitchen.  The two grow closer.

But as Molly becomes bolder, and ventures further from the safety of her room, Annie begins to wonder how she’ll ever get back home. Maybe she’s changed the past a little too much. . .

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:06:42 -0400)

In 1987, while her mother sits in a Baltimore hotel at the deathbed of a grandmother twelve-year-old Annie never knew, Annie travels back fifty years and shares adventures with the lonely girl who will grow up to be her feisty grandmother.

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