The best classic time travel books for kids

Deborah Kalb Author Of George Washington and the Magic Hat: George Washington and the Magic Hat (The President and Me, 1)
By Deborah Kalb

Who am I?

I am a former journalist, currently a freelance writer and editor, book blogger, and author. I’ve spent my entire life voraciously reading. I majored in history in college and spent many years covering Congress and politics in Washington, D.C., before turning to writing books.


I wrote...

George Washington and the Magic Hat: George Washington and the Magic Hat (The President and Me, 1)

By Deborah Kalb, Robert Lunsford (illustrator),

Book cover of George Washington and the Magic Hat: George Washington and the Magic Hat (The President and Me, 1)

What is my book about?

I wrote George Washington and the Magic Hat, the first in my President and Me time travel series for kids. The protagonist is Sam, a fifth-grader in Bethesda, Maryland, who finds an old tricornered hat on a school field trip to George Washington’s home, Mount Vernon.

The hat ends up taking him on various adventures back in the 18th century. At the same time, Sam is dealing with the fact that he and his best friend are no longer speaking to each other. 

The books I picked & why

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The Time Garden

By Edward Eager, N.M. Bodecker (illustrator),

Book cover of The Time Garden

Why this book?

Edward Eager’s books were my inspiration when I started writing the President and Me series. I picked The Time Garden here because it specifically deals with the concept of time, but most of Eager’s books would fit the bill, including Half Magic. Eager’s books, published in the 1950s and ‘60s, feature kids who have magic adventures, often through time travel but are also grounded in their own present-day reality, with issues they have to cope with in between their escapades.

The Time Garden

By Edward Eager, N.M. Bodecker (illustrator),

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Time Garden as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Book four in the series called "truly magic in a reader's hands" by Jack Gantos, Newbery Medal winner for Dead End in Norvelt.

Time and again, the children from Knight’s Castle have longed for another magic adventure.

But you can’t find magic just anywhere. It doesn’t grow like grass. It requires the right place and the right time . . . Or thyme, as the case may be. At Mrs. Whiton’s house, magic grows as wild as the banks of thyme in the garden. Growing there is olden time, future time, and common time. Or so says the Natterjack, the…


Time Cat: The Remarkable Journeys of Jason and Gareth

By Lloyd Alexander,

Book cover of Time Cat: The Remarkable Journeys of Jason and Gareth

Why this book?

I remember really enjoying this book as a kid. Jason and his talking cat, Gareth, embark on a series of time travel adventures, from Ancient Egypt to the Revolutionary War. Alexander was probably best known for his Chronicles of Prydain fantasy series, but Time Cat is less a fantasy story than a series of time travel episodes. I’ve always been more interested in stories that involve time travel back to the past rather than into a hypothetical future, probably because I love history.

Time Cat: The Remarkable Journeys of Jason and Gareth

By Lloyd Alexander,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Time Cat as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Gareth doesn't have nine lives, but he is definitely not an ordinary cat. For one thing, he can talk. For another, he has magical powers that Jason never dreamed of. "Anywhere, any time, any country, any century"―Gareth tells Jason he can take them traveling through time. And in the wink of a very special cat's eye, they're off. From ancient Egypt to Japan, from the land of young Leonardo da Vinci to the town of a woman accused of witchcraft, Jason and Gareth are whisked from place to place and friend to foe. This fantastic tale grabs the imagination and…


Tom's Midnight Garden

By Philippa Pearce, Jaime Zollars (illustrator),

Book cover of Tom's Midnight Garden

Why this book?

This book involves a boy, Tom, who encounters a young girl, Hatty, at night outside his aunt and uncle’s house, where he’s visiting. These visits occur in a garden, which, in daytime, does not exist. Hatty appears at different ages over the course of the book, and Tom ends up discovering the secret of the midnight garden (I don’t want to reveal the ending!).

Tom's Midnight Garden

By Philippa Pearce, Jaime Zollars (illustrator),

Why should I read it?

4 authors picked Tom's Midnight Garden as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Winner of the Carnegie Medal

From beloved author Philippa Pearce, this sixtieth-anniversary edition is the perfect way to share this transcendent story of friendship with a new generation of readers. Philip Pullman, bestselling author of the His Dark Materials trilogy, called Tom's Midnight Garden "A perfect book."

When Tom's brother gets sick, he's shipped off to spend what he's sure will be a boring summer with his aunt and uncle in the country. But then Tom hears the old grandfather clock in the hall chime thirteen times, and he's transported back to an old garden where he meets a young,…


A Traveller in Time

By Alison Uttley, Phyllis Bray,

Book cover of A Traveller in Time

Why this book?

Penelope, sent away to her aunt and uncle’s house (do you see a pattern here?) in the English countryside, travels back to the 16th century, the era of Mary, Queen of Scots, and becomes part of an effort to free the Scottish queen from prison. This classic novel, first published in 1939, was the inspiration for many other time travel stories.

A Traveller in Time

By Alison Uttley, Phyllis Bray,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked A Traveller in Time as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

A TRAVELLER IN TIME by Alison Uttley is a much-loved time-slip novel which vividly captures life at the time of Mary, Queen of Scots. Penelope lives in the 20th Century, and it is only when she visits Thackers, a remote, ancient farmhouse, that she finds herself travelling back in time to join the lives of the Babington family, and watching helplessly as tragic events bring danger to her friends and the downfall of their heroine Mary, Queen of Scots, whom they are seeking to rescue.


A Wrinkle in Time

By Madeleine L'Engle,

Book cover of A Wrinkle in Time

Why this book?

The absolute classic time travel story, A Wrinkle in Time is more of a science fiction novel than the others included here on my list. Meg Murry and her family travel through galaxies, not just through time. A Wrinkle in Time is the first, and most famous, of L’Engle’s Time Quintet, which also includes A Wind in the Door and A Swiftly Tilting Planet.

A Wrinkle in Time

By Madeleine L'Engle,

Why should I read it?

10 authors picked A Wrinkle in Time as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Puffin Classics: the definitive collection of timeless stories, for every child.

We can't take any credit for our talents. It's how we use them that counts.

When Charles and Meg Murry go searching through a 'wrinkle in time' for their lost father, they find themselves on an evil planet where all life is enslaved by a huge pulsating brain known as 'It'.

Meg, Charles and their friend Calvin embark on a cosmic journey helped by the funny and mysterious trio of guardian angels, Mrs Whatsit, Mrs Who and Mrs Which. Together they must find the weapon that will defeat It.…


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