It’s not every day that you discover that you have a secret basement at home, and it’s certainly not every day that you discover that in that secret basement you have a … time-machine.
Imagine: your very own time-travelling facility. Where would you go? How far back would you go? What would you do? These are all questions that 11-year old cousins Alex and Maia, screech at their father when he tells them the news that they have inherited this special possibility of travelling to the past. They are a bit more than time-travellers – they are also protectors of time.
The children eventually end up in Valletta of the 1940s, bang in the middle of World War II just after the Royal Opera House has been severely bombed. Their presence in the past helps Malta to foil a spying operation which would have given the enemy an edge — and thus, possibly, changing the course of history as we know it. The suspense and the fast-paced plot, and the insight into life 70 years ago makes Il-Vinkulari: Il-Vjaġġaturi taż-Żmien unputdownable – not only for children but for adults as well.
Time-travel has always held a peculiar fascination for readers across generations – thethe spellbinding time-travel tale of Trevor Żahra’s Meta Jaqa’ ċ-Ċpar is a bestseller till today.
One of the first readers of the book, 13-year-old Andrew Sammut, had this to say: “I was curious till the very end! It makes you realise how if you change a few seconds in the past, there would be a huge effect on the present.” He loved the fact that the story itself was fiction yet it had a lot of history in it “without even realising you’re reading history.”
The book is the first in a series of adventures by Storikus’ writer and playwright Simone Spiteri. “As a child I always wanted a time-travelling machine,” Spiteri says, adding that this is what inspired her to write this book.
She believes that time-travel can provide a perspective on contemporary problems by throwing light on how things were in the past and how difficulties can be ironed out in the future. “In this way, time-slip stories can be good food for thought on political or social issues giving readers the chance to think about the world around them and to consider how things could be done differently,” she says.
Moreover, the book highlights the importance of memory – personal and collective – and how important it is for us to know how to appreciate it and treasure it. “I think is pretty important in an age where everything seems to be so instantaneous and disposable at the click of a button.”Her tale has been further enhanced by the illustrations of Moira Scicluna Zahra – which at the beginning of each chapter give us a hint of the highlights to come.
The idea of creating a fiction series came while she was researching history for the Storikus textbooks. “From a simple premise of having two children explore various time periods in Maltese history, the story kept growing and taking a life of its own and I could do nothing but let it develop and eventually write it.”
Il-Vinkulari: Il-Vjaġġaturi taż-Żmien is available from all leading bookshops or directly online from merlinpublishers.com