The Book of Time by Guillaume Prevost

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The Book of Time by Guillaume Prevost
Buy The Book of Time from Amazon.co.uk

Buy The Book of Time from Amazon.com

Genre: Confident Readers
Rating: 3.5/5
Reviewer: Jill Murphy
Reviewed by Jill Murphy
Summary: A nicely translated time-travel adventure that thankfully doesn't get too bogged down in scientific paradox but achieves a pacy and exciting narrative with plenty of interesting historical detail. Great fun and let down only by an annoying cliffhanger ending.
Buy? Maybe Borrow? Yes
Pages: 272 Date: September 2007
Publisher: Scholastic
ISBN: 978-1407103426

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Ten days ago, Sam Faulkner's dad disappeared. Ten minutes ago, Sam discovered a hidden room. Five minutes ago, he picked up a book showing Dracula's castle. Two minutes ago, he found a way to travel through time.

Sam's been having a rough time of late. His mother died in a car accident some months ago and since her death, Sam's father, always slightly eccentric, has become depressed and even more eccentric. He has set up a fusty second hand bookshop in a run down part of town and shows little interest in his son. In fact, Sam doesn't even live with his father any more. He lives with his kindly grandparents. Lovely as they are, you can imagine Sam's sense of isolation.

When Sam's story begins, it's his birthday and his father has gone walkabout. Nobody has seen him for ten days. You'd think he'd show up for his son's birthday, but he doesn't. So Sam, lonely and sad, goes to the bookshop to see if he can work out where on earth his father has got to. And that's when his trouble with time begins. In the ensuing adventure, Sam pursues his missing father through Viking invasions of Scottish islands, the construction of tombs in Ancient Egypt, the trenches of World War I and medieval Bruges.

I've just got one problem with The Book of Time and that is its cliffhanger ending. I'm in danger of becoming a cliffhanger ending bore on this website, but I'm going to say it all again. Books are not television programmes. The next episode isn't on tomorrow night, or this time next week. While children shouldn't expect immediate gratification in every instance, I think they need a degree of resolution - especially when they are reading a book in which they have developed an emotional connection with the character, and especially when the book is intended for youngsters of late primary age. Series are fine, hinting at more adventures to come is fine, but to leave every plot strand, well, stranded, as happens here, is definitely not fine.

Cliffhangers aside, I really enjoyed The Book of Time. It doesn't fuss about science and the various time paradoxes too much. There are no butterflies being trodden on and changing the entire course of history. It's a pacy adventure story with a time travel twist and lots of good and interesting historical detail. And it's all hung on the engaging character of a little boy with a lot on his plate, recognisable and contemporary problems, and who is called upon to dredge up huge reserves of courage, fortitude and determination. It's most certainly recommended - provided your child doesn't object to delaying gratification past next week.

My thanks to the nice people at Scholastic for sending the book.

Linda Buckley Archer's Gideon the Cutpurse and The Tar Man also blend historical detail and time travel to great effect.

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