The Art of the Swap by Kristine Asselin and Jen Malone

The Art of the Swap is an intriguing and fascinating mystery of two 12 year-old girls who switch places in time. Hannah Jordan lives in the present day at The Elms,  a mansion-turned-museum with her caretaker father. In 1905, Margaret, known as Maggie, Dunlap  is an American heiress who spends time at the Elms as a guest of her aunt and uncle.  By way of a mysterious mirror, Hannah and Maggie swap places with each other.  Hannah goes back in time to 1905 whereas Maggie lands in the modern world.

At first, Hannah and Maggie are unsure of why the switch occurred.  Soon they realize that the swap took place on the very day that Maggie’s portrait painted by the now famous Mary Cassatt was stolen before its unveiling at a grand party at the Elms. Hannah and Maggie must collaborate quickly to solve the legendary art heist in order to return to their proper places in time.

I adore this novel on so many levels.  I am a huge fan of historical fiction especially when there is a mystery to be solved.  As a child, I loved the book Freaky Friday where a mother and daughter swapped places.  As an adult, my husband and I regularly vacation in Asheville, North Carolina.  On every trip, we always visit Biltmore, built by the late George Vanderbilt.  Not long after I started reading, I quickly discovered that The Elms was a real residence in Newport, Rhode Island, not far from the Marble House and The Breakers, both owned by the Vanderbilt family.  Having toured Biltmore many times, I can picture not only Hannah living in a historical mansion but also Maggie back in the Gilded Age. What a treat to experience both periods through Hannah and Maggie’s time travel.

What I love most about the novel is how the authors depict the role of girls/women has changed over the last century.  By traveling to the present day, Maggie shares that she does not want to be known as spoiled and useless, would rather read than sew, and relishes the fact that she can wear trousers, run, and climb trees in 2017.  Meanwhile, Hannah realizes that she has been raised with a completely different mindset-she can do and be anything.  Hannah though admits to Maggie that while women have equal rights on paper, women still have to earn them in people’s hearts.  At the end, both girls learn an important lesson about their purposes in life and how they can each make a lasting contribution to society, which to quote Hannah and later Maggie is pretty cool!

Special thanks to Kristine Asselin and Simon & Schuster/Aladdin for sending an ARC of The Art of the Swap to our #bookexcursion group. It will be published in February 2018 so pre-order now to reserve your copy!

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