August 2, 2012

The Book of Time

THE BOOK OF TIME by Guillaume Prevost (Scholastic, 2006)
GENRE: Science Fiction - Time Travel

REVIEW: Sam Faulkner, 14, has had a difficult couple of years. After his mother died, his father, Allan, sold their house and opened an antique bookstore in a run-down house. Just when things start to become normal again, Allan disappears. But when Sam goes to look for him, he finds a stone in the basement that enables him to time travel - to a monastery under Viking attack, to a French battlefield in WWI and a temple in Ancient Egypt. The more Sam travels, the more he understands, until, with the help of his cousin, he deduces that his father is being held captive by Vlad Tepes in 15th century Translyvania. Unforunately, that's when the book ends. Though fast-paced and terrifically interesting, most of The Book of Time reads as if the author is simply laying groundwork for the next book, an impression confirmed by the abrupt cliff-hanger ending. This is unfortunate because the story is well-paced with a genuinely likable protagonist and tons of interesting, accessible historical material. For all that, it fails to work as a cohesive whole - in trying to establish a narrative arc for the series, the author failed to establish an arc for the book.

OPINION: For all it's structural flaws, The Book of Time is still a worthwhile read. The pacing is great - the author hardly allows Sam, or the reader, time to take a breath before launching into a new dangers. Even Sam's present day is full of threatening bullies and his aunt's suspicious new boyfriend. With this much adventure, action and suspense, (not to mention the highest of stakes - his father is being held captive by Vlad the Impaler), The Book of Time is likely to please.

IDEAS: This is fun, accessible science-fiction for kids who don't like science fiction. It's also a fantastic book for classroom use as Prevost (who teaches history) lines each adventure with serious doses of historical interest and detail. The Scholastic edition also includes a comprehensive list of discussion questions, making it a truly educational volume, even though it feels like nothing more than fun when you're reading it.

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