Middle Grade

Once Was A Time

A beautifully rendered and utterly absorbing tribute to the unbreakable ties of friendship.

In the war-ravaged England of 1940, Charlotte Bromley and her best friend Kitty McLaughlin are inseparable. They read their favorite books, they play imaginary games, and they promise to stick together, no matter what the future may bring.

But that future is more uncertain than they could imagine, as Charlotte’s scientist father has unearthed a staggering truth: time travel is real. And when this discovery attracts the attention of cruel forces, throwing the two girls into peril, Charlotte is faced with an impossible choice between danger and safety, between remaining with her friend or following a portal to another time and place. In a split second, Charlotte’s life changes forever. Alone in an unfamiliar place, unsure of Kitty’s fate, she knows that somehow, she must find her way back to her friend.

Beautifully rendered and utterly absorbing, Once Was a Time is an imaginative and timeless tribute to the unbreakable ties of friendship, perfect for readers ages 9 and up.

Select praise

  • Once Was a Time has it all: suspense, humor, an intrepid heroine, and an intriguing take on time travel. At its heart, Leila Sales’s dazzling tale is about a friendship so powerful that nothing—not even time itself—can break its bonds. Unforgettable.”—Katherine Applegate, Newbery Award-winning author of The One and Only Ivan
  • “At once epic and intimate, bold and gentle, and as boundary-breaking and timeless as the friendship that is at this story’s magnificent heart. A gorgeous, exciting read.”—Anne Ursu, author of Breadcrumbs and the National Book Award–longlisted The Real Boy
  • “Here is a timeless story of best friendship that is as original as it is authentic, as elegant as it is heartwrenching. Sales is a master storyteller.”—Courtney Sheinmel, author of Sincerely, and the Stella Batts series
  • “The focus of this charming novel is always on friendship and loyalty. Rewarding and uplifting.”—Kirkus Reviews
  • “Will delight those who prefer to revel in the vast mysteries of time and coincidence.”—The Horn Book
  • “[Lottie’s friendship with Kitty] haunts Lottie (and will haunt readers, as well) until Sales brings Lottie’s journey to an unexpected but satisfying end.”—Publishers Weekly
  • “The bond between Lottie and Kitty proves to be both tender and unstoppable.”—Booklist
  • “The book shines in its portrayal of friendship… Will appeal to fans of When You Reach Me and A Wrinkle in Time.”—School Library Journal
  • “Touching, bittersweet.”—VOYA
  • “Sales handles the complexities of time travel with grace.”—Scholastic Teacher
  • A Junior Library Guild selection
  • An Amazon Best Book of the Month (April 2016)
  • A Parents’ Choice Award Winner
  • Nominated for the American Library Association’s 2017 Notable Children’s Books List
  • Selected for the NYC Reads 365 List
  • Selected for state lists from Kansas, Maine, Georgia, and Louisiana