As the middle-grade novel “Time and the Tapestry” opens, 13-year-old Jen and her 10-year-old brother Ed are in the living room fretting that the family may lose its house and one priceless artifact: an unfinished Tapestry (they always think of it in capital letters) by the renowned William Morris. Their grandmother is reading aloud a cryptic poem, itself “woven like a tapestry,” composed of lines from Morris’ poetry that Jen and Ed have heard many times.
But this time, as the grandmother recites the verse, Jen accidentally knocks over the bird cage, freeing their pet blackbird, Mead, who flies nearer and nearer the Tapestry. As the children lunge for him, they suddenly find themselves behind the Tapestry, floating above a bucolic Victorian landscape. In fact, they’re flying on Mead’s back, for he has somehow grown to the size of a motorcycle — and learned to talk in the bargain.
And so the adventure begins. John Plotz, “who’s spent many years studying, teaching and dreaming about William Morris,” instructs us about this great reformer-cum-idealist-cum- craftsman, but the lessons emerge organically to advance, rather than pause, the puzzle plot. This magical novel has a quest, time travel, a talking blackbird, a dragon, lovely illustrations in the spirit of the Pre-Raphaelites and three highly engaging main characters (the blackbird being one of them). What more could you want?