JULY 28:

  • Happy birthday Jim Davis (Garfield series) and Natalie Babbitt (Tuck Everlasting).
  • Best birthday wishes to the City of Miami, Florida, established in 1886. Read It’s Hot and Cold in Miami by Nicole Rubel and Miami-Nanny Stories by Linda Milstein, illustrated by Oki S.Han.
  • In 1914, World War I begins when Austria-Hungary declares war on Serbia. Read The War to End All Wars: World War I by Russell Freedman.
  • It’s National Milk Chocolate Day. Read Charlie and the Chocolate Factory by Roald Dahl and The Chocolate War by Robert Cormier.

Recently I came across an excellent summer reading list pulled together by teacher extraordinaire Mike Lewis. It made me reflect on how some books just beg to be read in the summer. I hope that Laurel Snyder’s new book Seven Stories Up graces many future summer reading lists.

In a compelling opening, readers encounter Annie and her mother, who are racing at night through the streets of Baltimore, Maryland, to get to the deathbed of Annie’s grandmother. Much to Annie’s surprise they arrive at a decaying old mansion, Hotel Calvert, and Annie has a strange encounter with an old woman, still very much alive. As she goes to sleep that night, she puts a ragged black sleeping mask. In the morning she discovers, slowly, that she has traveled back in time to 1937, when the Hotel Calvert was in its heyday, and she shares her room with a young girl named Molly.

In a book that pays homage to Frances Hodgson Burnett’s The Secret Garden, Molly, suffering from asthma, never gets to leave her room in this hotel, which is owned by her father. But Annie soon challenges her new friend’s assumptions about what she should or should not do. Hence they use the fire escape to go out into Baltimore and have adventures in department stores and at a carnival. Slowly it dawns on Annie that Molly is not just any girl—Molly is her grandmother as a girl.

Using her trademark light touch, Laurel Snyder weaves in period-appropriate material about the Great Depression and even adds historical notes at the end. Yet she is not just a historian, but primarily a master at moving the plot forward—whether throwing her characters in a dumbwaiter or having them run from the police. Seven Stories Up simply works as an exciting, page-turning read. And like the best of time-travel fiction, the book returns Annie to her present-day situation with a much more profound understanding about the influences on her grandmother’s life.

In an author’s note, Laurel Snyder talks about the history and research behind the book. She masterfully sets scenes and characters, leaving a great deal to the imagination of the reader. And she certainly made me consider a question I had not thought about before—what would it have been like to have known my grandmothers, who I adored, as children.

If you are hunting for a perfect summer read, don’t miss Seven Stories Up and the mesmerizing storytelling of Laurel Snyder.

Here’s an excerpt from Seven Stories Up:

You’re supposed to cry when your grandma is dying. You’re supposed to be really sad. But as Mom and I sped through the dark streets of Baltimore, I couldn’t stop bouncing in my seat. At last I stuck my head out of the window and leaned into the muggy night. My hair whipped around. The sharp rush of air felt good on my face.


Originally posted July 28, 2014. Updated for .

Tags: Family, Grandparents, Great Depression, History, Time Travel
Instructional materials from TeachingBooks.net for Seven Stories Up


  1. Mike Lewis says:

    So glad you highlighted Seven Stories Up. I’m always thrilled to pass along Laurel Snyder books to my middle graders. Thank you for the kind words about the summer reading list. I’m lucky to be a teacher at a time when dedicated children’s lit. advocates so generously share their ideas and recommendations.

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