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.