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A YA Historical Time Travel with Life Lessons - an Editorial Review of "The Secret of Four Notch"

Book Blurb:

Mom and dad decided to move us from our home in California to middle-of-nowhere Washington state. Goodbye forever, best friends!

Exploring our sopping wet new neighborhood, our weird “sort of” new friend, my sister and I discovered Four Notch. Was the legend true that it could take us back in time? I know it sounds crazy but we figured it out. Went back to the time of the sawmills. Very strange and pretty exciting until we got found out and had to cut and run back home. We were definitely going to try again.

But then, out of nowhere, mom and dad decided I needed to pick strawberries every day because dad’s work was having money troubles. I’m just a kid! What the heck? After two weeks I had all I could take. I hatched a plan to escape using Four Notch. But I decided to go way back, before the white man was here. What could possibly go wrong?

I’ve lived with the Suquamish people for four months now and I’ve tried twice to get back home and... it just doesn’t work any more! I really miss my family and I don’t know if I'll ever figure out the secret of Four Notch and get back home...

Author Bio:

Tracy Sabin in an author/illustrator of children’s books. He has created illustrations for textbook publishers including Harcourt Brace, National Geographic, Houghton Mifflin, Scholastic and Savvas Learning Company, among others. He wrote, illustrated and paper-engineered “A Visit to the North Pole” in 1993. In 2006, he illustrated the New York Times bestselling popup book, “Castle” with text and paper-engineering by Kyle Olmon. Since 2015, Tracy has been writing and illustrating books under the imprint, "Thar She Blows Books." Titles include “Mouse Builds a House,” “Nothing to Do!” and “Nobbin, Bobbin & Cobb - A Refugee Story.” “This Is Our Ocean - The Dream of Clean Seas” won SCBWI’s 2019 Spark Award for excellence in independently published picture books. His most recent publication is “The Secret of Four Notch,” a middle-grade novel. Other books include a survey of logos designed by Tracy and “Cotswolds North & South,” a series of photo essays highlighting the villages of the Cotswolds.

Editorial Review:

They spent the afternoon in the dark under the deck, complaining about their bad luck. Reliving past summer exploits, they briefly forgot about the bad news. It was Danny who reminded them that everything was about to change. Danny, Jen and Tabor were losing their home, their amazing summers, and worst of all, their best friends. That night, Danny lay in bed, wide awake. He had too many questions with no answers. Why were his mom and dad doing this to him? How could he stop this move? What would their new home be like? How much would he hate it?

In a very poignant way, this novella is a remarkable story for any youngster or young adult dealing with sudden changes in living arrangements, such as moving away to another location or even transferring schools. For a young person, this can be a traumatic experience and Mr Sabin uses his unique storytelling gift to ease the transition.

This is the story of three youngsters whose parents up and move them from the sunny life of Pomona to the grey and rainy forests of Washington State near Seattle. With a lot of complaining and whining, the three siblings must accept that this is out of their hands, that they might never see their old home and friends again... and the very idea is more than they can stand... especially for Danny, the oldest.

Danny wished that the magic of Four Notch was different. He wished it could take him back to Pomona; take his whole family there, back to their old house, back to where his friends were, to where a normal day was a sunny day. But somehow, he knew that Four Notch didn't work like that. Still, he had to do something. He couldn't stand his new life.

After arriving at their new home, sequestered way back in the woods on a looped dirt road within walking distance to the nearby town, Danny and Jen make quick friends with the boy who lives down the street, Kip Yotter. Kip is a strange fellow but soon they find themselves exploring the surrounding woods, and they also stumble into a nearby shack, the residence of a Mr. Wolf, a Native American who has secrets of his own. They also stumble upon a strange area in the woods near an ancient Indian camp, four large stumps called 'Four Notch'... and before they know it they are transported back in time to when logging was the going rage in the area. Kip stays a bit in the past while Danny and Jen hurry back to their present life, afraid of what just happened.

Sometimes, change rolls over you like a bad storm. It's too big and powerful to stop. All you can do is try to survive. After it passes, you have to deal with the wreckage.”

After Danny's parents require him to join Kip at a nearby berry farm to help make money for the family, thus taking up most of his fun summer adventures, Danny makes the decision to use Four Notch to help him escape his sad life. The only problem? Once he gets to where he is going, where he thinks things will be different, he can't get back... that is, until Mr. Wolf shows up in the past and teaches him some lessons which will help him not only get back home... but will help him look at his life differently.

“The Secret of Four Notch” is a great adventure book for young people with some very insightful lessons woven throughout the narrative, lessons about history, about cultures, about friendship, family, love, and understanding. The story is easy to read while giving a glimpse into history for the target age without feeling heavy or boring. Most youngsters can relate to the themes, that of losing friends or feeling left out of their parent's decisions, not to mention wanting to run away to something better... so this is an ideal book to tackle those types of issues. Also, the book can be read in one sitting and could be a delightful one for a parent and child to share together before bedtime. Danny's adventures will be sure to foster some great conversations!

I tried to stop the changes, but... Four Notch doesn't let that happen. It's like history. You can learn about history but you can't change what happened. Going forward in time with Four Notch is like going to a future history. You can observe it but you can't change it.”


The Secret of Four Notch” receives five stars from The Historical Fiction Company and the 'Highly Recommended' award of excellence.



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