‘My dad died twice. Once when he was thirty-nine, and again four years later when he was twelve’ – the opening line immediately sets the pace and tone of the book. It creates curiosity and sets imaginations alight – mine certainly was!
The story is in chronological order (important to mention this only as it is a time travelling book!) and is from the point of view from a twelve year old boy – half Scottish, half Indian – set in the North East (perfect for me – I heard everything in a Geordie accent!) in ‘today’s time’ (mostly). It follows this boy – Al – who lives with his mum, step dad and step sister, and nearby his Grandpa Byron. He knows some things about his dad (Chapter 11) – he loved computers, reading, was called Pythagoras Chaudhury, and so on – and, like most children who have lost a parent, would love to have him back.
On his twelfth birthday he receives a letter from Pye (dad) telling him to go back in time to prevent his death. What child wouldn’t do that for their beloved daddy?! So Al breaks in to their old house and finds his dad’s time machine, and takes his pet hamster with him (why not?!) back to 1984 and tries to save his dad.
Various things happen (I won’t spoil it for anyone who wants to read it) but it is certainly a thought-provoking and gripping book.The chapters are short, making it really easy to pick up for a two minute read, and appeals to the science-y type, or those who are really interested in Einstein’s theories.
Ideas to try in the classroom include: designing and building your own time travel machine. In this book it is a laptop, a black box, a few cables with a bit of blue tac, and a large metal tub.
On page 111 there is a song to remember the order in which the Kings and Queen’s of England ruled. The tune is the ‘Blaydon Races’ (Geordie song), and it could be fun to include on an unrelated topic of history. It shortens the names of them – so George is Geordie, Richard is Dick, and so on – be wary of this with some of the children!
It could also spark some interesting debates on whether it is ‘right’ to go back and change things, knowing it could impact on everything. This could be linked into the butterfly effect in Geography and PSHE lessons.
You could ask the children to write a diary from when they arrived back in time – perhaps linking into the topics of the Victorians or any other history topic you are studying.
Finally you could ask the children who they would go back to see if they could choose one person. Some interesting pieces of writing could come from this!
Word of caution – be wary of any children who have recently had a family member or close friend die. It could easily bring up some sad memories and make children want to build their own machine to go back and see them.