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BOOKS: Friend -- from the future

Past and present mingle in this gentle story of friendship.

The year is 1987. Twelve-year-old Annie doesn't know if she loves her grandma. After all, she doesn't even know her.

"Seven Stories Up," by Laurel Snyder, is the unusual story of Annie's visit to a crumbling old hotel in Baltimore on a stormy night to see her dying grandma.

Even though her mother warns her to stay away, Annie sneaks into the old woman's room. Annie is speechless. The old woman is mean, desperate and angry.

That night Annie finds an ancient copy of "The Secret Garden" puts on an old-fashioned sleeping mask, and falls asleep.

When she wakes up, she in the same room ... in 1937. In the room is another girl. Molly. She's desperately lonely.

As Annie discovers, Molly has asthma and has been confined to her room for nearly a year. Her mother and sisters have left for the summer. Her dad -- the owner of the hotel -- rarely comes to see her.

It doesn't take long for Annie to realize that Molly is her grandmother.

The two become immediate friends. Although Molly isn't supposed to be active, Annie sneaks her out of the hotel. They head to Woolworths (where Molly learns to roller skate), run from a policeman and find an orphan kitten. Later they go to the fair near the docks, eat cotton candy and visit a fortune teller.

Author Laurel Snyder allows "Seven Stories Up" to carry underlying tensions. First, there's Molly's asthma. Will she suffer from an unexpected attach? And where?

The tension in Annie's story rises, too. No matter how hard she tries, she can't get back to 1987. Her memories of the future are beginning to disappear.

Snyder also includes layers of details about Baltimore in 1937, including a description of the Baltimore Home for Girls. When Annie teaches them clapping rhymes from the 1980s, it produces an interesting mix of past and future.

"Seven Stories Up" is a gentle book which celebrates the power of friendship and its possibilities for changing the future.

"Seven Stories Up." By Laurel Snyder. Random House, 2014. 240 pp.