Wednesday, May 9, 2012
Adventure Back in Time
You name me one kid who wasn't fascinated with dinosaurs as a kid and I will show you a fibber! Remember the first time you went to a museum and saw a dinosaur skeleton? Or watched one of those Discovery channel specials like "Walking with the Dinosaurs"? I am not going to lie, but I still have nightmares when I watch "Jurassic Park"! So who wouldn't love a story about a bunch of kids who end up back in time running from dinosaurs, right?! Well Chronal Engine by Greg Leitich Smith doesn't disappoint!
Alex and his brother and sister, twins Kyle and Emma, are being shipped off to their crazy, reclusive grandfather's house for the summer while their mother trots off to the far reaches of the earth to dig for bones. This is the same house where Tyrannosaur footprints were found fossilized in a creek bed. But their grandfather cut the prints off to the public years ago and now the kids get to see how the crazy old man really lives. Once there, things don't stop being strange. Their grandfather showed them his prized possession- the Chronal Engine.
The Chronal Engine is a time machine. The kids think it is just a large and rather strange decoration, but when their grandfather predicts his own heart attack and gives the kids a cryptic message, they suspect it isn't as useless as they once thought. When Emma is kidnapped and *poof* disappears into thin air, they know she has been taken back in time. Their only hope for saving their sister is to follow her, but that means a whole host of giant creatures that want to eat them, squash them, or just plain terrify them. Can they get to Emma before she becomes dinosaur food?
This was a really quick, fun little middle reader. It is definitely for the younger crowd, most likely late elementary to early middle school students. The story is fun and adventurous, and the characters are interesting. The story is relatively short, so there isn't a lot of background knowledge or a huge amount of character development, but for this age-group, that isn't a problem. You really don't want a cryptic, complex story for a middle reader. There are some plot holes as well, or things that aren't fully explained or resolved, but I imagine a younger student would be so wrapped up in the dinosaurs to notice!
The dinosaurs are really cool. In fact, I love that Alex is a dinosaur buff (shocker when his mom is a paleontologist, right?!). He is that great little kid who knows everything about dinosaurs and isn't afraid to hide it! The beauty of this kind of story is that it can show a kid that knowledge is cool! Without knowledge, the kids never would have saved Emma and gotten back home! I love a book that shows kids how being interested and smart is an asset, not something "nerdy"! So put this books on your shelves, teachers and librarians, because it is a fantastic middle reader and will be great for boys and girls alike. But be very, very still... there is a T-rex right behind you!