Time Travelling with a Hamster - Book Review
UK Publisher: Harper Collins Childrens Books
“My dad died twice. Once when he was thirty nine and again four years later when he was twelve. The first time had nothing to do with me. The second time definitely did, but I would never even have been there if it hadn't been for his time machine…”
When Al Chaudhury discovers his late dad’s time machine, he finds that going back to the 1980s requires daring and imagination. It also requires lies, theft, burglary, and setting his school on fire. All without losing his pet hamster, Alan Shearer…
I really enjoyed this book although it was nothing like I expected. Full of twists and turns, the story was far from predictable. Also despite being dubbed a children's book, I think parts of the story are complex enough to have definite crossover appeal. This is without doubt a novel for both the young and old alike!
When twelve-year-old Al receives a letter from his dead dad, containing a set of instructions for a homemade time machine, Al realises he has the power to change his life—or at least save his dads. But when a trip to the 1980s ends horribly wrong, Al creates an even bigger catastrophe. Now armed with only a spare jumper and his pet hamster, he must set about making things right. Otherwise he may be stuck in the past with no home, no family, and no future to return too…
This is lovely story full of humour, drama and time-travelling action. However what starts as your typical children book soon turns into an emotional roller coaster and while I didn't cry, the last few pages certainly had me choked up and my eyes were admittedly damp.
The characters were all vibrant and very life-like. I loved the relationships between them, and particularly adored the exchanges between Al and his quirky, Indian grandfather, Byron. Not only are Al and his grandfather really close, but I found it both interesting and honest how Al respects and admires his grandfather in general, yet can sometimes be embarrassed by his grandfather’s flamboyance, especially in front of his classmates.
Yet as the book progressed, I enjoyed watching Al grow more confident with both himself and the world around him. He learned to confront the bully, accept his family for who they are and better yet, learned that time travel is a pretty bad idea. Even the smallest of changes can have consequences.
However what made this book extra special for me was its setting. Not only am I from the Blyth/Cullercots area where the story takes place, but I knew every local area referenced, as well as all the Geordie terminology that I’m sure was interesting for a lot of readers. I also must confess that I too once had a black and white hamster named Alan Shearer. So as you can imagine, there was a lot about this story that made me smile.
My only niggle with the book is that—while I think tween readers would enjoy the humour—the latter half of the story is pretty intense and may be too heavily worded for younger readers to understand. With references to Albert Einstein and his work along with the idea of paradoxes… I’m not sure how a younger audience will receive this.
Overall I actually think teen to adult readers would appreciate this story more, however I hope this becomes the kind of book children take delight from, but maybe re-read again when they are older. Basically, since the story reads more child-like in some chapters and more adult-like in others, I’m really not sure where this book belongs on the bookshelf!
Ultimately though, the story is extremely well written and thought out. I personally enjoyed it very much and hope every person who picks it up goes into it with an open mind. A true masterpiece of fiction, I can’t wait to see what Ross Welford comes up with next. 4.5 stars!