By: Pamela Rushby
Genre: YFT - Historical fiction
Published by: Walker Books Australia
Published: 5 Apr 2023
ISBN: 9781760655808


What lies hidden in the mud? What might happen if you look at it too long? And what will happen if you let it go?

Twelve-year-old Nina is not happy. Her scientist parents are spending a year in Antarctica. And Nina's being sent to London to stay with her Aunt Bee, an intertidal archaeologist, who lives on a converted barge on the Thames. She's also a keen mud larker, combing the river mud for fascinating, long-forgotten articles from past lives. Nina arrives with an Attitude. Her parents have never left her behind before. It takes time for her to settle in, helped by the MudPuddlers, a local group of enthusiastic amateur mud larks, and especially by Molly, an elderly MudPuddler living on a nearby barge. Molly draws Nina into the magic and mystery of the ancient river and its treasures. When she finds herself stranded in time, in the Blitz in 1940, Nina and a very unwilling fellow traveller, Tom, become runaways, fumbling their way across wartime England, desperate to return to London. Will they ever see their families again?

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Nina is angry. Mostly, she is angry at her parents, who have decided to go and work in Antarctica for a year and leave her behind.

Nina is twelve and has been sent to London to live with her Aunty Bee on her barge on the Thames. Nina loves her Aunty, but she still has so much anger at the situation she finds herself in (not that it’s her Aunt Bee’s fault). Slowly, Nina and Bee make the best of it and Nina soon finds herself joining her Aunt as she goes mud larking in the river with her barge neighbour, the eccentric Molly.

Mud larking, or mud puddlers as they call themselves, spend the time when the tides are out searching the river bed for historical and interesting things that have been thrown in the river. Nina finds she loves it and has a strange affinity with things she discovers - both Nina and Molly can time travel if they concentrate on the object they find and it will take them back to when the object was in use! Molly’s only warning is to make sure you don’t lose the object, otherwise you can’t get back to your own time.

Nina loves going back in time to re-live history - the Frost fairs when the Thames froze over was her favourite, after she found a bit of an old ice skate. When she finds part of a gas mask from the Second World War, Molly warns her it was really dangerous in London and not to go back to that time. But Nina can’t help herself and when in a crush at the station she drops the gas mask and gets whisks off to Wales - which is miles from London and her gas mask - how will she ever get back? Will she be stuck in past forever?

Another thoroughly entertaining story from Pamela Rushby, linking the modern world with the past. Nina is a great character and her adventures in the past will have readers who love historical fiction fascinated by what she discovers. There are great author’s notes at the end of the book that will help with understanding what Nina lives through.

A perfect book for readers in the lower secondary years.

Reviewed by Michelle