Saturday, January 7, 2017

The Book That Proves Time Travel Happens

The Book That Proves Time Travel Happens
by Henry Clark
Recommended Ages: 11+

Time trombone. Did you read those two words? I repeat: Time trombone. Let them sink in. This should save me the trouble of spinning the pointer on my not-very-handy Wheel of Adjectives, so I can decide whether zany, goofy, loopy, kooky, off-the-wall, or madcap best describes this adventure from the author of (deep breath) What We Found in the Sofa and How It Saved the World. Yes, friends, this is a book in which time travel is made possible by a brass musical instrument with a valve slider. Depending on what six notes you toot on it, and what place and time you are thinking about, and which people within earshot have psychic powers, you and those people could end up anywhere, anytime in history. Blow one note a bit flat, and you could go 5,000 years off course. Change something and you could come back to a seriously messed-up future. Travel with best friends Ambrose and Tom, present-day middle-school kids from Freedom Falls, Ohio, and carnival-schooled Romani girl Frankie, and you could get mixed up in an adventure that will tickle, tease, teach, and touch the heart.

Ambrose is worried that his father, an English teacher at the local school, may lose his job because of his alternative lifestyle as a "transtemporal" or "cross-time dresser," showing up every day in a different historical costume, ranging from a Roman legionnaire to Mark Twain. Tom, a Chinese-American boy whose mom is pushing him to become an all-American surgeon or a stockbroker, would really rather be an all-Chinese archaeologist. And Frankie, who believes she is destined to be the steward of her clan's prized time-trombone (known as the Shagbolt), just wants their help retrieving the artifact from its hiding place inside their school, plus maybe a valuable first-edition book that she lost while borrowing it from her dad.

But one mishap follows another, and together with a friendly Gigantopithecus, the kids find themselves in 1852, on the run from slave-catchers empowered by the Fugitive Slave Act, and with the lives of a growing number of people depending on their actions. Somehow, everything they do contaminates history and makes things worse. Soon all their hopes of making it back to the future they remember depend on Tom's knack for deciphering Morse Code messages hidden in ancient Chinese I Ching hexagrams, Frankie's toughness and bravura Shagbolt-playing, Mr. Ganto's willingness to play the long-suffering but super-strong sidekick, and Ambrose's sheer daring, quick thinking, and willingness to broaden his mind.

This book is packed with pop-culture and literary gags, corny humor, suspense, excitement, weird magic, witty dialogue, thought-provoking history lessons, and conscience-pricking meditations on right and wrong. It explores such wide-flung regions as the freedom to be different, the evils of slavery and intolerance, and the human mind's tendency to recognize patterns - not to mention time paradoxes, destiny, civil liberties, and the strange ups and downs of the fortunes of books such as Moby-Dick and Uncle Tom's Cabin. It isn't the sequel one might hope for to its author's previous book featuring the alternate world of Indorsia, though it makes a winking reference to it.
But winking aside, it's a seriously fun book that will keep bright, curious young eyes glued to its pages.

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