Months back I received this book from Reader’s Warehouse in exchange for an honest review. I feel terrible for not having read it up until now; but there’s a part of me that is so grateful I put off reading it. I’ve been in a terrible on again, off again slump for a while, jumping from book to book totally distracted (kinda like a kid in a candy store), so when I scanned my shelf for something light and entertaining I wasn’t expecting much. But weirdly, this book was exactly what I needed at exactly the right time!
“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…
Firstly, the title of this book is indeed “Time Travelling with a Hamster”, which sounds silly and I’m sure you wouldn’t take this book too seriously at first glance. But like I soon learned, this book is not at all what it seems, although it does involve time travelling; oh, and of course, a hamster! I was so impressed with this wonderfully strange and well written, debut children’s novel; and was quite surprised when I realised that it was, in fact, the first published work by Ross Welford.
The book is narrated in its entirety by Al, who is right on the door step of teenhood – a time most of us look back on with a lot of
fondness cringing and embarrassment. On his twelfth birthday, Al’s Mom gives him a letter that was written to him by his father before he died; and this is where the adventure begins… On this quest to rectify mistakes made long ago, Welford introduces us to truly unforgettable characters, while keeping us entertained with a very unique storyline.
My husband and I can never turn down a good animation movie. However, as an adult you kind of realise that most of the films aimed at kids are actually written with parents in mind, and some of the jokes can be considered inappropriate for little ones. But reading this book, and I have to say that it deals with some pretty heavy issues; I can easily recommend it to a parent looking for an age appropriate book for their teen. The author really got into the psych of a 12 year old boy which I found incredibly enlightening – it makes me wonder if he is currently in possession of his very own time-machine and whether he travelled to another dimension to relive his teen years. Here’s the thing though: even though this book managed to shrewdly capture the essence of a twelve year old boy, it gives me great pleasure to say that this story can be appreciated by EVERYONE. And that is saying something!
This is the first book I’ve read about time-travelling, but I’ve watched loads of movies about the phenomenon to have a good idea what it’s all about. What I appreciated about this book was how well the science was explained with a twelve year old in mind, and I know this sounds crazy but as far as time-travelling goes, Ross Welford’s laws for space hopping makes the most sense to me.
Here, I’ll explain…
[you may skip this part if you’re not interested in reading about my space-time qualms]
[I refer now to Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban. In this book/film, Hermione is given a time turner which she uses to attend classes; but near the end of the book she is instructed by Dumbledore to go back in time to fix a blunder that resulted in Sirius Black being taken back to Azkaban Prison. Now, when she and Harry go back in time, they follow their past selves to Hagrid’s hut, where Hermione warns Harry that they cannot be seen by anyone otherwise bad things will happen. But, while past-Harry and Hermione are in the hut, present-Hermione warns past-Harry that people are coming, and that they need to leave… What always bugged me was that if the warning happened in the past, then shouldn’t the blunder have been fixed already? I mean, a present occurrence cannot happen in the past because it still needs to take place, correct? So there’s a flaw there… But in the humble Time Travelling with a Hamster it is a universal law that you may only travel to any particular location in time and space ONCE. This law of spacetime prevents any chaos and confusion such as the scene from HP above; which is brilliant in my mind, because now it can make sense!]
[Continue reading here]
Thank you @readers_warehouse for sending me this book for review! I am so excited to start this one, it sounds different to anything else I’ve read before. Read this: “My dad died twice. But only the second time was my fault.” Doesn’t that sound like a story you have to read? Also, the title is just so quirky, I love it!!
A book like this could’ve easily turned out way too confusing and for a brief moment I was worried that the plot was going to head into a very bizarre direction that the author may not be able to recover from; but honestly my worries were put to rest. Welford kept me hanging on his every word, and even though I was delightfully surprised; I knew exactly what was happening since everything was explained in perfect detail.
Speaking of details, every snippet of content somehow managed to be relevant. You know how some books zoom in on every little piece of information to the point where you’re left wondering: “Why on Earth do I want to know this?? Get to the point already!!”? You end up getting bored because this insignificant detail explained in five excruciatingly long paragraphs has absolutely no relevance to the story. However, Welford carefully added this information because it really does play a part – and I adored this!
I think if there is one character that fast became a favourite of mine, it would be Al’s Grandpa Byron. He was the fictional embodiment of peace and serenity; incredibly wise and oh-so-cool. His character was precisely what this book needed, and someone an older person will easily be able connect with. I learned so much from him, and felt that I needed to add this little quote just to give you an idea of what to expect…
“Death, Al, is not the end. As it says in the Sri Kalpana, ‘Live life so completely that when death comes to you like a thief in the night, there will be nothing left for him to steal.”
Time Travelling with a Hamster could’ve easily been another children’s scifi book written with nothing other than entertainment in mind. But because of Grandpa Byron, Pye and even Al himself, there was a deeper level of understanding and realisation to be found; which made this book extremely special to me. It needs to be read by more people – it has something to say to the world! Filled with cultural diversity, science education, a little bit of star gazing and a whole bunch of tips on how not to treat your pet hamster; this was a book that packed some serious punch. Please do give it a read…