Jane Louise Curry has been writing novels for children since the early 1970s. Her most recent book came out in 2005. Over the years I’ve gradually collected and read and enjoyed nearly all her books, but these two, written in 1975 and 76, eluded me for a long time. I found them recently, the first in a Kindle edition, the second on Amazon as a used book. They’re connected, though they can certainly be enjoyed separately as well.
In “Parsley,” a present-day girl named Rosemary is sent to stay with her aunt in a very old family home in Maine, one she’s never seen. When she arrives, she finds the house, called “Wychwood” fascinating, and enjoys exploring the surroundings. There’s a small herb garden that’s fallen into disrepair, and through it Rosemary finds herself transported back to the past, the 1720s to be precise, when the house was actually the home of an old woman, Goody Cakebread, who the local folks considered to be a witch. She’s actually a harmless old lady except for one thing: she has a cupboard with unusual magical properties. Things put into it often disappear, but other things Goody needs appear there instead. Rosemary soon discovers she’s not the only one drawn to this time and place from its future, there are two others, a younger girl, Baba, and a boy baby named Wim. Before any of them can figure out how to return to their own time, they’re drawn into turmoil in the local town, where a preacher is determined to burn Goody Cakebread as a witch. The children and Goody try to escape, but are caught and thrown into jail, and things are looking grim for them.
In “The Magical Cupboard,” we follow the 1722 era adventures of another young girl, Felicity, who has ended up in the clutches of Parson Grout and his wife, the ones persecuting Goody Cakebread, and now in possession of her cupboard, though they don’t know how to use it. Felicity is taken to an orphanage run by the Grouts, which she soon discovers is really a forced labor home for the children they put there. The Grouts are running from their past bad deeds, and decide to head into the Maine wilderness to escape the law, taking their orphans along. The expedition is full of troubles, and when it’s attacked by Indians, things seem to be headed for a sad end.
Both these books are connected in interesting ways through characters and events, and reading the two together was fun, though I wouldn’t put them among Curry’s best work. I love any story involving time travel, though there isn’t very much of it here, but the characters are engaging and the plots are clever.