Talking statues, time travel? Johnny and Fergie think the professor is off his rocker until they all end up in Constantinople in 1453 during the Turkish invasion. Can they get back or will they perish in the siege?
As the Byzantine Empire prepares for battle, the professor decides to try to save the people hiding in the Church of the Holy Wisdom. But Johnny and Fergie. Desperate to stop him, have hitched a ride, recklessly unaware that they risk their lives--and risk being lost in the past...forever! --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
This is John Bellairs at his absolute peak of creative ability. The cast of characters ranges from an amusing, tongue-in-cheek ancient Egyptian god (in the form of a floating bird statue of course), and an inventor who's harebrained schemes rival that of the professor's, to the more frightening gothic images of medieval ghosts, and talking stone heads. The locations are more exotic than ever before. And the fact that the main characters find themselves in the middle of the Ottoman Turkish siege of Constantinople, lends itself to a great deal of drama almost by default.
True, Bellairs asks the reader to suspend their disbelief a little more than ususal, (I mean, how likely is time travel in an old trolley?) but the rewards are even greater than normal.
The most different, and also the best of the John Bellairs collection.
Professor Childermass is acting even more oddly than usual, which is saying something. When Fergie and Johnny try to investigate his weird behavior (including sand on his carpet and talking to himself), they find the professor having a conversation with Brewster, a magical Egyptian statue. He admits his secret: Behind a bricked-up wall is a time-travelling trolley. And the boys hitch a ride when Childermass travels back in time to save the city of Constantinople from invasion.
The problem? They arrive a little too late, and the city is being overrun by Turkish soldiers. As they struggle to make their way back to the trolley and the safety of the future, they encounter the trolley's creator (who accidently got left behind during one of its previous excursions), a deranged monk, and a group of ghostly Crusaders. But then Johnny is poisoned, and the only cure means going back to Constantinople -- and back into danger.
Usually time travel books are full of cliches, and this one has a few, but you probably won't notice them. Kids who read this book may become interested in the Byzantine Empire -- while Bellairs doesn't present huge amounts of historical detail, he gives enough to be very, very interesting. (There's also a dash of Egyptian stuff too) There's adventure, humor and the odd way of getting around.
Johnny and Fergie remain the surprisingly courageous duo of previous books, the shy boy and his brasher, jokier pal. Professor Childermass is crusty, sometimes a bit irrational, but very lovable. And Brewster (a deity of Upper and Lower Egypt) really steals the show with his dry little comments. .
This book proably has one of the lowest amounts of supernatural stuff of Bellairs' books. Certainly it doesn't have much in the way of horror. But there is a great twist about halfway through, where our heroes are aided by a group of ghostly Crusaders, who are trying to make amends for sacking the city centuries before. I suppose Brewster technically counts as supernatural, and he provides a lot of the humor (such as translating a Turkish soldier's words as "Butter and eggs, and a pound of cheese!").
"Trolley To Yesterday" isn't Bellairs' best novel, but it is an intriguing and informative historical book that adults may enjoy as well, especially if they're Byzantine buffs. Good fun.
I enjoyed the book tremendously. Read more