Back to the Future meets The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time in this original, poignant, race-against-time story about a boy who travels back to 1984 to save his father’s life.
My dad died twice. Once when he was thirty-nine and again four years later, when he was twelve. On his twelfth birthday, Al Chaudhury receives a letter from his dead father. It directs him to the bunker of their old house, where Al finds a time machine (an ancient computer and a tin bucket). The letter also outlines a mission: travel back to 1984 and prevent the go-kart accident that will eventually take his father’s life. But as Al soon discovers, whizzing back thirty years requires not only imagination and courage, but also lying to your mom, stealing a moped, and setting your school on fire—oh, and keeping your pet hamster safe. With a literary edge and tons of commerical appeal, this incredible debut has it all: heart, humor, vividly imagined characters, and a pitch-perfect voice.
Description taken from Goodreads.
I was prepared for the worst with this book. Between the blurb, the cover, and the title, I was fully prepared to put it down 20% of the way through as an unfortunate disappointment. But no, Time Traveling with a Hamster demanded to be loved and read, and it reminded me why I continue to read middle-grade lit.
I think what I love about this story is that it’s so no-nonsense. It gets right to the heart of the story, never stopping to dwell on the ridiculousness of the situation. Between Al’s authentic voice and the great pacing, it’s easy to get lost in the magic of the story. I’ll admit that I was skeptical in the beginning, but shortly after I got into the story, I realized it’s perfectly reasonable to write a story about time traveling with a hamster.
The plot and writing were spot-on. I especially loved the way that Al got to explore his relationships with his dad and grandpa because of the time travel, though I wasn’t impressed by his bad relationship with his step-sister. There were points in the story that were cliché or felt like they were formatting ideas derived from other writers (ten facts about one of the characters, a chapter move that I dislike immensely because it breaks the story apart). I was disappointed by this, especially in the beginning, because of how impressed I was by Welford’s writing.
All in all, I would recommend Time Traveling with a Hamster to boys and girls through middle school and maybe a little younger. Honestly, it’s great for anyone willing to give it a chance. The humor is spot on, the story is exciting enough to keep impatient readers going, it has heartfelt characters, and the ending is satisfactory. A great read. 4 stars.