Title: Return to Canterbury | Author: Melissa Goodwin | Publication Date: December 17, 2013 | Publisher: Independent | Pages: 208 | Recommended Ages: 8+ | Reviewed by: Renee (Mother)
Summary: RETURN TO CANTERBURY is the highly anticipated sequel to The Christmas Village, winner of the 2013 Blogger Book Fair Reader’s Choice Award for children’s adventure. Things have settled down for thirteen-year-old Jamie Reynolds since last Christmas. That’s when he time-traveled to 1932 and wound up in the town of Canterbury, Vermont. There he met Kelly and Christopher Pennysworth, who quickly became his best friends. Back in his own time again, he misses them every day. But as the July 4th, 2008 holiday approaches, the biggest black cloud still hovering over Jamie’s life is the mystery of what happened to his dad, who has been missing for almost a year. Little does Jamie know that he will soon reunite with Kelly and Christopher for an adventure even bigger than their last. Together they’ll uncover a secret plot that threatens to destroy Canterbury. But will they be able to stop it before it’s too late? And will Jamie finally solve the mystery of his father’s disappearance? Return to Canterbury with us and find out.
My Thoughts: Return to Canterbury is the charming sequel to the award-winning book, The Christmas Village, both of which feature time travel back to a quaint little town in Vermont (Canterbury) circa 1930’s in the midst of the Great Depression. In this second book, Jamie travels back to Canterbury when he sees his missing father in a photograph (and then himself in a different photograph) taken in 1935. But when Jamie takes a trip into the past once again, he learns that figuring out how to return himself and his father to the future is only one of the challenges he must face. There is a mystery to solve as the local farms are going up in flames and the farmers, fearing for their lives, sell to a mysterious buyer who has secret plans for the town. Jamie must work with his old friends, Kelly and Christopher, to solve the mystery and prevent the town from literally being erased from the map.
Before I begin this review, I must fully disclose that I did not read the first book in the series, The Christmas Village. Normally I do feel it is necessary to read the first book in a series in order to understand the second; but, in this case, I felt the author did a great job of giving just the right amount of detail about what happened in Book 1 for the reader to feel comfortable reading Book 2. Book 2 begins with a letter written from 13 year-old Kelly Pennysworth in 1935 to Jamie, the time traveller from 2008, describing what has happened to the people who he met in Book 1. This was a brilliant way for the author to introduce characters from Book 1 and to explain some of the back story. The next two chapters also summarize some of the events from Book 1. Overall, I thought the author did a great job orienting the reader.
Sometimes, I read a book and I desperately want to go to the place described in the book. That is how I feel about 1930’s Canterbury – I want to go there! The author does a great job describing New England in the 1930’s including how people dressed, what they ate, the living conditions, and those lovely gatherings that prioritized family, friends, neighbors, and community. It reminded me of my upbringing in a small rural town where literally, everybody knows your name and everybody looks out for each other. As far as settings go, the Canterbury in Melissa Goodwin’s imagination is as idyllic as it gets.
Return to Canterbury features a large cast of characters including our three main protagonists: Jamie, Kelly (both from the past and the future), and Kelly’s brother Christopher. The relationship among the three is one of camaraderie, loyalty, and trust. I love how they work off each other’s strengths and weaknesses. The secondary characters such as Ida and Rusty, Kelly’s parents, Reggie (the future mayor), and others serve to warmth to the story. It is easy to see why Jamie is so torn between the past and present. In this second book, we see the return of the children’s old nemesis Jim Gordon as well as a new villain (or two). There is just right amount of tension for middle grade. You never feel like that the children’s lives are in grave danger, but you are eager to see where the story is going next.
The addition of Jamie’s Dad to the cast of characters is an interesting one. We learn that Jamie’s Dad has a shady past and that he is actually a fugitive from the law; but, the author does end up creating a sympathetic character who has begun a new life for himself in 1930’s Canterbury. And importantly, in the future, he does end up taking responsibility for his actions and turns himself in. I think this was a necessary outcome for the reader to resolve any conflicting feelings they may have about Jamie’s Dad.
Overall, I love the concept behind the story of Jamie finding out his Dad has travelled back to Canterbury and the sub-plot featuring the mystery of the farms being burned down was very well done as well. I thought it was very clever to bring back the children’s arch-enemy, Jim Gordon. My only comment is that there was a bit of suspension of disbelief necessary for me to really believe the children would chase down Jim Gordon when he flees (i.e., would children really try to follow and capture a known criminal with a violent past?). The part where Christopher rescues Jamie from Jim Gordon in the rowboat also seemed rather unlikely. But, for middle grade books, there is more room to take liberties with these details, because there’s nothing like cheering for young heroes who undertake the most unlikely feats in the name of justice.
My Bottom Line: Return to Canterbury is a time-travel adventure featuring the young heroes from The Christmas Village; an endearing cast of supporting characters; a setting that will have you yearning for “the good old days”; and a bit of a mystery which sees the return of an old enemy. This was a total feel-good book with just the right amount of tension for a middle grade reader. There is no inappropriate language, no violence, and the themes are perfectly appropriate for tweens. I strongly feel that you do not need to read the first book in order to fully appreciate Return to Canterbury; however, I suspect that you will WANT to – I know I do! I highly recommend this series for ages 8+.
* This book was provided to me by the author free-of-charge in exchange for my honest review. All opinions expressed are my own. The author is also participating in our Book Promotion Program. *
More Buzz About the Book
“Return to Canterbury is filled with the suspense, humor, and heartwarming characters readers have come to expect from Goodwin. It was a pleasure to return to her writing and I look forward to reading more from her in the future!” ~ 5 Star Review, Julie F., Amazon
“Both of Goodwin’s books deserve a large readership. She writes with great confidence and creates a compelling plot. If you enjoy books for young readers, like those written by J. K. Rowling and Kate DiCamillo, I encourage you to read both Canterbury books. The first one—The Christmas Village—is the 2013 Blogger Book Fair Reader’s Choice Award Winner for action/adventure.” ~ 5 Star Review, Anna R., Amazon
“Although a children’s book, I, an elder adult, absolutely loved it. Return to Cantebury and it’s prequel The Christmas Village are rollicking good fun, quick but intelligent reads and when finished the stories make you feel like a part of the wonderful family and community the author creates. You just can’t put them down. Both books leave plenty for the imagination but I look forward to seeing them in the box office as no doubt these gems will be made into movies and eventually will be considered classic children’s stories although the stories will feed the soul of any age. Cleverly written and perfectly edited, I highly recommend both books although they are written so well you can even read them in reverse order without skipping a beat. Good job!” ~ 5 Star Review, Noodles, Amazon
“I received the book with the mail yesterday and just finished it today, less than 24 hours later! I couldn’t put it down! It was a great sequel with page-turning action and I highly recommend it for both teens and adults!” ~ 5 Star Review, Jim T., Amazon
About the Author: Melissa Goodwin
Melissa Ann Goodwin grew up in Andover, Massachusetts, where she spent a happy childhood living in her imagination and writing stories in her head. It was only a matter of time before those stories spilled out onto the written page. She has been published extensively in children’s and national magazines and won a Writer’s Digest Annual Poetry Competition Award in 2010. Her first book, The Christmas Village, won the 2013 Blogger Book Fair Reader’s Choice Award for children’s adventure. The Christmas Village and its sequel, Return to Canterbury, are the culmination of her lifelong dream to write the kind of books she loved to read as a child.
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* Giveaway *
Prize: There will be one winner who will receive a copy of Return to Canterbury (print copy for US/Canada & electronic copy for international winners) + a $10 Amazon gift card/PayPal cash.
Contest ends: March 21, 11:59 pm, 2014
How to enter: Please enter using the Rafflecopter widget below.
Terms and Conditions: NO PURCHASE NECESSARY TO ENTER OR WIN. VOID WHERE PROHIBITED BY LAW. The winner will be randomly drawn through the Rafflecopter widget and will be contacted by email within 48 hours after the giveaway ends. The winner will then have 72 hours to respond. If a winner does not respond within 72 hours, a new draw will take place for a new winner. Odds of winning will vary depending on the number of eligible entries received. This contest is in no way sponsored, endorsed or administered by, or associated with Facebook. This giveaway is sponsored by the author, Melissa Goodwin and is hosted and managed by Renee from Mother Daughter Book Reviews. If you have any additional questions – feel free to send and email to Renee(at)MotherDaughterBookReviews(dot)com.