Hello everyone! I hope you all had a great Labor Day weekend. I was sick so it was at least good to have time away from work to recoup and rest. I’m feeling much better now and excited that it’s September and fall is just around the corner 🙂
It has been so long since I have read a middle-grade novel, and a mystery at that! The Art of the Swap by Kristine Asselin and Jen Malone caught my eye one afternoon at work while I was checking in books. The cover was appealing, and the synopsis even more so. The book tells the story of Hannah Jordan and her dad who live in a famous Victorian-style home in Rhode Island known as The Elms, where the aristocratic Dunlap family once lived.
Hannah’s dad is the caretaker, and she’s spent her childhood roaming the old house-turned-museum, marveling at the antiques and wishing she lived back then in 1905. One day while looking in a mirror, she notices that it’s not her face looking back at her, but that of Maggie Dunlap, the niece of the owner of The Elms. In the blink of an eye they switch places – Hannah finds herself in the 1905 version of The Elms and Maggie winds up in the present day.
Hannah and Maggie didn’t switch places just for fun – Hannah believes the reason for the swap was so she could put a stop to an infamous art heist. Back in 1905, a coveted portrait of Maggie was stolen, and Hannah happens to know everything about it thanks to the history books she’s spent hours pouring over. With Maggie more-or-less on board to have Hannah pose as her and attempt to stop the heist, she must immerse herself in Hannah’s life and do her best to blend in and not raise any eyebrows while she tries to solve the mystery, which is easier said than done.
A recurring theme in this story is the differences between modern day and early-Twentieth Century life, specifically in regard to expectations of women and girls. Hannah can’t believe the standards Maggie has to hold herself to as a soon-to-be society lady, and Maggie is shocked at the freedoms Hannah enjoys, from wearing pants to playing sports, to talking to boys unchaperoned. Hannah is hugely supportive and encouraging to Maggie, assuring her that the stifled life she lives now will change some day, thanks to the hard work of women throughout history. This sparks something in Maggie and she vows to be a part of the women’s movement in any way she possibly can.
As a lover of all things early-Twentieth Century, this was an easy one for me to love. Both Hannah and Maggie are likable, and I can’t think of two better strong female characters for young readers to meet. The plot surrounding the stolen painting was very compelling and I’ll admit that I didn’t know how it would turn out as there were a few twists at the end.
This was the exact type of book I would have loved to read as a kid, and I’m so glad that it exists!