Mira’s Diary: Cal­i­for­nia Dreaming

  • Review
By – June 22, 2016

Maris­sa Moss mesh­es time trav­el, his­tor­i­cal fic­tion and a pinch of mys­tery in the fourth and final book of the Mira’s Diary series.

Mira is a spunky four­teen-year-old who inher­its the abil­i­ty to time trav­el from her moth­er. In Cal­i­for­nia Dream­ing she trav­els back to San Fran­cis­co in the late 1800s. Her mom is on the lam through time, in an attempt to rec­ti­fy a hor­ri­ble inci­dent that is to occur in the future. But because alter­ing the past is for­bid­den, Mira must find her moth­er before the nefar­i­ous Watch­er, a woman who is deter­mined to stop all time trav­el­ers and to change his­to­ry in her own way. It does­n’t help that Mira’s mom is also inten­tion­al­ly avoid­ing her daugh­ter as it is risky for fam­i­ly mem­bers to time trav­el together.

Mira is armed with only a few clues, and some help­ful hints from her broth­er and father who are stuck in the present day. Along the jour­ney she meets piv­otal his­tor­i­cal fig­ures like Mark Twain, whom she meets when he is still a young news­pa­per reporter named Samuel Clemens, and even gets a job at the news­pa­per her­self, work­ing along­side a boy named Scout who looks sus­pi­cious­ly like three oth­er boys she has met on her time trav­el­ing adventures.

Mira makes a few remarks about her Jew­ish her­itage and the his­to­ry of Jews in the Bay Area, but his­tor­i­cal Jew­ish events are not an inte­gral part of this sto­ry. Cal­i­for­nia Dream­ing most­ly focus­es on cen­sor­ship and the impor­tance of per­son­al free­dom. The his­to­ry of San Fran­cis­co is tan­ta­mount to the plot; the earth­quake of 1906, the destruc­tion of the city and the even­tu­al rebuild­ing are chronicled.

In the end, Mira’s mom’s quest is to undo the fix­ing” done by the Watch­er whose goal is to change past events to stop free­dom of expres­sion. She has been try­ing to affect the world by use of cen­sor­ship (such as stop­ping Mark Twain from writ­ing satir­i­cal con­tent). At the cul­mi­na­tion of the sto­ry, Mira and her mom defeat the Watch­er and stop her from destroy­ing the devel­op­ment of the Gold­en Gate Bridge as it is a sym­bol of free­dom and opportunity.

While this install­ment does tie up some loose ends left from the pre­vi­ous books, there are many unknowns and even Mira does­n’t total­ly under­stand what is going on, as she is obliv­i­ous to her moth­er’s exact plight until the very end which can be frus­trat­ing for read­ers. Despite sev­er­al odd plot holes and unex­plained ele­ments, Mira’s Diary presents a unique con­cept and puts an enter­tain­ing spin on history.

Although Cal­i­for­nia Dream­ing is a stand­alone title, it’s rec­om­mend­ed that read­ers check out the ear­li­er Mira’s Diary books for a more in-depth under­stand­ing of Mira’s his­tor­i­cal adven­tures, abil­i­ty and Jew­ish experience.

Writ­ten journal”-style and sprin­kled with rel­e­vant lit­tle illus­tra­tions, Cal­i­for­nia Dream­ing is a fun and engag­ing romp through time. Moss includes an exten­sive bib­li­og­ra­phy and a detailed author’s note, includ­ing the his­tor­i­cal accu­ra­cy of her enter­tain­ing spin on history.

Rec­om­mend­ed for ages 8 – 12.

Relat­ed Content: 

Jil­lian Bietz stud­ied library tech­nol­o­gy and research skills and cur­rent­ly works in the library sys­tem. She is a book review­er for the Jew­ish Book Coun­cil and Kirkus Review Indie. Jil­lian lives in South­ern California.

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