In her series debut, Faith Reese Martin not only shows young readers that history is still relevant today but that it can be downright magical. Unlike her archaeologist parents, twelve-year-old Margaret “Jinx” MacKenzie does not see the value of history and is in danger of failing sixth grade if she doesn’t turn in a makeup history report by summer’s end. A trip for her mother’s work to North Carolina’s Roanoke Island, the site of the Lost Colony where ninety men, seventeen women, and eleven children disappeared sometime between 1587 and 1590, presents the perfect opportunity for research—and adventure.
Jinx hasn’t told anyone about her psychic ability to converse with her adorable dog, Petey. Once on Roanoke Island, she also begins to enter strange dream states through a Time Tunnel in which she observes a little colonial girl fleeing the island, a Native American watching the escape, and the ghostly appearance of a white doe. But Jinx isn’t the only one who can go back in time. Maxwell Myers, a local boy who quickly befriends Jinx, witnesses similar events from the same time period. Taking the first initials of their names, Jinx, Max, and Petey form the JMP History Mystery Detective Agency and set out to solve the identities of the colonial girl and the eerie white doe.
Appearances by Orville Wright, who, along with his brother, Wilbur, made the nation’s first flight on the Outer Banks, serve to remind us of more great historical achievements that should not be forgotten. A combination of the children’s immersions into the past, stories told by Jinx’s mother, and local legends highlight the still unsolved mystery of the Lost Colony; children unfamiliar with this event in early American history will want to consult the included study guide prior to reading.
Throughout her speculative fiction, Martin gives notable attention to the Native American experience, encouraging readers to consider the English exploration as an invasion, sometimes even an aggressive one. The author never presents the Native American perspective as a single viewpoint, and instead reveals conflicting thoughts and actions toward the colonists. To further aid educators, she concludes with a “real characters to research” section, a glossary, timeline, and more information about the Outer Banks and the Elizabethan period. Martin leaves children eagerly wondering eagerly what other mysteries from history are yet to be solved.