This was a Scholastic-type book, probably about 5th-grade level. I would have read it in the 1980s.

I remember there were a brother and sister, possibly in upstate New York. They either found or fell into a cave, inside of which were hazelnuts. They ate? the nuts, and this transported them back to Colonial times. They ended up living with a friendly family until they could get back to the cave/hazelnuts to return to the present. I think the settlers were Dutch or German.

There was one bit I remember vividly: upon arrival, they were taken in by a family, and saw something like a coal scuttle. When one of them asked what it was, the neighbor laughed and said something to the effect of "Well, if you're living with this family, no wonder! A coal scuttle is for carrying live coals from one house to another when your fire goes out, and Mrs. [Name] has never let that happen! Her fire has burned for years!" Later in the book, the family has rushed out for some emergency and forgotten to bank the fire. They run back, the woman feeds and fusses over the fire, and finally finds one coal poking out like a glowing eye:

She sat back on her heels. "X years," she said proudly, "and still it burns!"

There were a few monochrome illustrations — maybe in brown? — and the one I remember is just after the two have transported back to the present. The brother is standing and the sister is sitting on the ground of the cave, knees up, head on her crossed arms, and he notices her Colonial-style dress and her long hair spilling over her shoulders and back.

I would really like to read this again, so please let me know if this sounds the least familiar. I've Googled every combination of keywords I can think of.

1 Answer 1


Is this Caroline D. Emerson's The Magic Tunnel?

image of cover

The broad outline of the story sounds exactly the same as what you've described, although the bit with the cave and the nuts doesn't seem to match (they go back in time by using a subway train in New York) and the bit about the fire is too minor to be mentioned in any of the descriptions I've found.

First off, I Googled "brother sister new york eat nuts time travel colonial". That led me to this forum thread, where someone asked about what sounds like exactly the same story:

This was in the late 60s or early 70s. It's about two kids - brother and sister - who live in contemporary New York. They hear a story that if you stand in the very front of the lead car in a subway train and make a wish it will come true. They wish themselves to the Dutch Colony of New Amsterdam in 16-whatever-it-was. They find out how hard colonial life was, they have some adventures, and then they go back to modern New York before they get stuck in the past or change history or something.

The answerer linked to this Amazon page, which has a few not-very-informative reviews. I also found this Goodreads page, which is a little more helpful and descriptive:

  • Sarah and John make a wish while in a subway train under New York City and are transported to New Amsterdam in 1664. I loved this book as a child. The details stuck with me: not having forks and sleeping in cupboards in the wall. It's a great way to learn about early colonial history.

  • The plot was fairly simplistic and straightforward, but I liked how it showed the duality of such an adventure: the kids lived it up and had all the fun in the world until the first day ended, forcing them to deal with the very Puritanical and strict mores of the time period. And of course going back home wasn't going to be easy, considering which PART of the 1600s they were in!

    The characters were pretty adorable, too, even for 1940s gender stereotypes. And even Sarah didn't live up to hers for that long, after she got into the spirit of things. My favorite part will always be their adventure in the wilderness, with the clams and everything.

  • 2
    THAT'S IT! HOLY CATS HOW THE FRAK DID YOU FIND THAT SO FAST?! I Googled that combination of keywords and did NOT come up with this book. Thank you! :D Mar 2, 2017 at 4:10
  • I am getting this on my next Amazon order and I'll let you know if I'm remembering those bits correctly. :) Mar 2, 2017 at 13:03

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