Margaret Peterson Haddix’s Shadow Children series is extremely popular in my classes this year. I try to pick up all the Haddix books that I can, as they seem to hook many reluctant readers. When I saw that Scholastic was offering “Running Out of Time” last month, I picked it up without knowing much about it. While getting my car’s oil changed yesterday I had about an hour to read and managed to finish the book. It is definitely a quick read, but an exciting book! Jessie’s family lives like most typical families- in 1840. She’s a tomboy, usually the one in the group doing the dares, rather than the daring. In many ways, she reminded me of Anne of Green Gables. Her mother is the local midwife and Jessie enjoys tagging along with her on jobs. Lately, however, more and more children have been becoming sick.
When the book opens, Jessie accompanies her mother to an appointment, but her mother will not let her enter the home where two children are very ill. On the way home, her mother is acting very strange, and she sees signs on certain houses that signify the occupants are quarantined. Her mother won’t answer her questions, but tells her she needs to meet her in the woods the next day, after school, but to tell no one. That morning, Jessie’s younger sister becomes ill in school. Jessie brings her home and then heads deep into the woods to meet her mother. What she learns in those woods will change her life, and the lives of those around her. Her mother tells her that she fears diptheria is the disease they are fighting. She needs Jessie to leave their village, Clifton, and find medicine in another village. However, all is not as it seems.
Haddix’s book takes a sharp turn about a quarter of the way through- a twist that I never saw coming! I hesitate to say more, because I don’t want to ruin the experience for anyone else. I really enjoyed this book and I know a few reluctant readers in my classes who will be hooked by this book. If you enjoy fast-paced adventures, plot twists, mysteries, or Haddix’s other works, I highly recommend this novel!