Booktalk: Running Out of Time by Margaret Peterson Haddix

Some of the best stories for a middle-school audience have been written by Margaret Peterson Haddix, including Running Out of Time and the Shadow Children series beginning with Among the Hidden.

In terms of booktalking technique, one of the main questions is how far to tell the story and how much to give away.  For example, if you’re telling a class about Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson, you should tell them that she’s struggling with a secret, but you should NEVER EVER tell the audience what that secret is, because the reader should only learn it when the character is ready to reveal it.  However, since this cover and many other covers of Running Out of Time reveal both an old and a modern-day setting, I think it’s okay to reveal that it isn’t really 1840, even if the protagonist doesn’t realize that at first.


The year is 1840, and Jessie lives with her family in the small village of Clifton, Indiana.  They live a hard life by modern standards – they do all their washing, cooking, and sewing by hand, and a whole family has to live in a tiny log cabin.  Jessie’s father works as a blacksmith, and her mother works as a midwife.  She helps women deliver their babies, and she does a doctor’s job, too, using herbs and natural remedies to heal the sick.  Right now there are a lot of sick people in Clifton, and none of the remedies are working.  Every day, there are more and more empty seats at school, and everyone is getting worried.  Then one day, Jessie’s mother asks for her help.  She tells Jessie that the only way for someone to stop this sickness is for someone to go outside.  And that’s when she tells Jessie the secret – that outside Clifton Indiana it’s still Clifton, Indiana – but it’s not 1840.  In this strange world, people have never seen log cabins or blacksmiths except in photographs.  Now it’s up to Jessie to save her village from the grip of this deadly sickness.  And the only way she can do it is by …

Running Out of Time

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