Within a Painted Past


160 pages
ISBN 1-55037-989-5
DDC jC813'.54





Reviewed by Kelly L. Green

Kelly L. Green is the co-editor of the Children’s Literature edition
of the Canadian Book Review Annual.


With deft and complex plotting, Hazel Hutchins has created a truly
remarkable time-travel fantasy that doubles as a mystery.
Twelve-year-old Allison is spending the summer with Aunt Mavis and Uncle
Jack in Banff after a difficult year of not fitting in at school.
Hanging in her room are some remarkably realistic paintings, one of
which begins to snow as Allison looks at it. Before you know it, Allison
is stepping into 1898 Canmore, Alberta, and visiting distant relatives
(although she doesn’t figure this out until later).

Hutchins seems to have borrowed the time-honored step-into-the-painting
device from The Voyage of the Dawn Treader by C.S. Lewis (who in turn
borrowed it from 19th-century fantasists Lewis Carroll and George
MacDonald, among others), but with many unusual plot twists, she creates
an altogether original and startling adventure. The circular nature of
the time travel is a real mind-bender, and could lead to interesting
discussions about necessity, predestination, and other philosophical
concepts that intrigue young people. Allison’s journey from self-doubt
to self-confidence via her “historical” destiny makes for an
exciting page-turner—one that is particularly noteworthy since the
book’s two protagonists are girls. The only weak point is Hutchins’s
occasional use of hackneyed, stilted, and overly simplistic language.
Nevertheless, this is a creative fantasy that conveys a subtle message
of strength and self-respect to preadolescent girls. (Boys will like it,
too.) Highly recommended.


Hutchins, Hazel., “Within a Painted Past,” Canadian Book Review Annual Online, accessed July 16, 2024, https://cbra.library.utoronto.ca/items/show/31406.