One of the KidsPost Summer Book Club selections this year is just hitting bookstore and library shelves. KidsPost doesn’t usually choose titles published so recently, but “The Glass Sentence” was too intriguing to pass up.
The story is set in Boston in the late 19th century, but it’s not simply historical fiction. Boston is the capital of New Occident, a country that formed when the Great Disruption of 1800 tore apart time and space. Parts of the world shifted to different Ages — from the distant past to far into the future. People in Boston are curious about but also afraid of residents from the other Ages.
A teenager named Sophia lives with her uncle Shadrack, a famous mapmaker. He has promised to join her on a search for her parents, explorers who have long been missing. But before they can depart, Shadrack is kidnapped with all his maps. Sophia and an acquaintance named Theo leave New Occident in the hopes of rescuing her uncle. But how will they navigate in unfamiliar worlds?
KidsPost editor Christina Barron talked by phone with S.E. Grove, author of “The Glass Sentence.” Grove, who lives in Boston, studied English literature in college and later went back to school to study Latin American history. She wrote “The Glass Sentence,” the first book in what she calls the Mapmakers trilogy, as a break from the big research paper required for her history degree. The second book in the series is set to be published next spring.
Barron: You have been described as a world traveler. Have you visited places that seem ages apart?
S.E. Grove: “I think that happens all the time. . . . I traveled to Beijing [in China] in the late ’90s . . . it had a transporting feel. And when I travel to Latin America as well. Even places like England. . . . I think it can happen quite a bit.”
How would you describe Sophia’s world?
“New Occident looks somewhat like what the United States looked like in 1800. It’s 90 years later, but it hasn’t had the kind of expansion that happened [in the United States]. . . . Exploration has become one of the most important things to do. They’re trying to understand what this new world looks like.”
Did you try to make it seem normal to time-travel?
“I think I wanted to sidestep the whole time-travel thing. I think it’s something that authors have covered a lot. The challenge [of moving between the Ages] is really the cultural one: ‘What do we do with these people who are so different from us?’ ”
Sophia, who travels to different time periods, is described as having no internal clock. Is that like an internal compass?
“I know plenty of people who have no internal compass. I know fewer people who have no sense of time the way Sophia does. What I liked about this notion for her is that she sees it as a disability. But sometimes things we don’t like about ourselves end up being strengths.”
Was the idea of accepting or rejecting people who are different from you a big theme?
“I think it’s something that we struggle with as a culture. Most places do. It obviously emerges from the choices we’ve made. New Occident can reveal some very interesting possibilities for a nation that tries to reject or include people. I like the way that the choice made by parliament at the beginning of the story might make the reader think, ‘What would a nation look like if it chose to reject everyone from within?’ ”