Tag Archives: time travel

Frankie Fish and the Sonic Suitcase by Peter Helliar

What is your worst nightmare?  Trapped in a pit of snakes?  Trapped in a room full of clowns? Being forced to listen to Taylor Swift songs over and over?  Frankie Fish’s worst nightmare is being stuck in the past with his grumpy grandad.  He may hate it but it is certainly hilarious for readers of Peter Helliar’s new book, Frankie Fish and the Sonic Suitcase.

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Twelve-year-old Frankie Fish hates visiting his grandparents. Grandad Fish is cranky, and yells a lot, and has a creepy hook for a hand – plus he NEVER lets Frankie go inside his shed. But after a teensy tiny prank goes wrong at school, Frankie is packed off to Old-People Jail for the whole holidays.

What Frankie doesn’t know is that Grandad has been building a home-made TIME MACHINE in the Forbidden Shed, and the old man has big plans to get his missing hand back. But when Grandad goes back in time, he changes history and accidentally wipes out Frankie’s entire family – Nanna, Mum, Dad, even his annoying sister Saint Lou. Somehow, everyone is gone but Frankie and Grandad! And it’s only a matter of time until Frankie disappears too…

As the last Fish men standing, Frankie and Granddad must race back in time to undo this terrible mistake. But can they stand each other long enough to put the past back together again? And even if they manage the impossible – will Grandad’s wonky time-machine ever get them home?

Frankie Fish and the Sonic Suitcase is a wacky time-travel adventure with a cool new character.  There is something in this story for everyone – pranks, time travel, family secrets, a weird grandparent with a hook for a hand, magicians, strange transformations, the Water Tank of Death and plenty of laughs.  Peter Helliar’s other career as a comedian shines through in this book as he certainly knows what makes kids laugh.  Peter hooks you right from the start and makes you need to keep reading to find out what happens.  Like any good time travel story this one asks ‘if you could go back and your past would you do it?’

Frankie Fish is a character that kids, especially boys, are going to love.  Frankie is a mischievous kid who loves playing pranks with his friend Drew Bird.  When Frankie starts poking around in his grandad’s shed he finds himself stuck in a place and time unlike the one he knows, with his grumpy grandad.  Suddenly, Frankie is the sensible one who must keep his grandad on the right track and stop him from making even more of a mess of his life. Thanks to his grandad’s meddling Frankie finds himself changing more than he could ever imagine.

Lesley Vamos’ illustrations add some extra fun to the story, especially when there are several different grandad’s involved. The cover is fantastic and the title literally jumps off it.

It’s good to know that Frankie Fish and the Sonic Suitcase is only the first book in a planned series featuring Frankie.  I certainly want to read more of Frankie and Alfie Fish’s adventures!

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Time Travelling with a Hamster by Ross Welford

‘My dad died twice.  Once when he was thirty-nine, and again four years later when he was twelve. (He’s going to die a third time as well, which seems a bit rough on him. but I can’t help that.)’

With this first paragraph, Ross Welford immediately grabs you and takes you on a wild ride through time in his brilliant (and brilliantly titled) new book, Time Travelling with a Hamster.

Time Travelling

On Al Chaudhury’s twelfth birthday his beloved Grandpa Byron gives him a letter from Al’s late father. In it Al receives a mission: travel back to 1984 in a secret time machine and save his father’s life.

Al soon discovers that time travel requires daring and imagination. It also requires lies, theft, setting his school on fire and ignoring philosophical advice from Grandpa Byron. All without losing his pet hamster, Alan Shearer

Time Travelling with a Hamster is a funny, fresh take on time travel about a boy who would do anything to get his father back.  This book has all the elements of a truly great book – humour, suspense, action, wonderful characters, and lots of heart.  It makes you laugh, cry  and nervously chew your nails.

This is the perfect time travel book for kids (and adults who love the idea of time travel).  Ross brings his own ideas about time travel into the story and makes it easy enough for kids to understand, without dumbing-down the ideas.  The time machine that Al’s dad built is not quite what Al imagined a time machine would look like.  It is very simple – a laptop connected to a tin tub.  Even something this small creates its own problems when traveling back in time.  My favourite aspect of Ross’s idea of time travel is ‘Dad’s Law of Doppelgangers.’ Al’s dad explains in a letter to him that ‘an object (or person) may occupy the same dimension of spacetime ONLY ONCE.’  When Al travels back in time he realises that he ‘cannot go back to the same place and time that I was before: it has already been occupied – is already occupied – by me.’ As you can imagine this causes a few problems for Al.

It is a nerve-wracking story at times.  There are times in the story that I was holding my breath, wondering how Al was going to get out of a certain situation.  As with all time travel stories, little things that are changed in the past can have dramatic effects in the future.  Al’s actions have quite dramatic effects on his life and you can’t help putting yourself in his shoes, wondering if you would have done the same.

While it is nerve-wracking at times, there is also a lot of heart in this story.  Al misses his dad, who died much too soon.  When he gets the chance to go back in time to save him, Al steps into the unknown and does what his dad asks.  Al loves his family and if he can bring them back together again he will.  The relationships between the males in Al’s family are very strong, especially between Al and his Grandpa Byron.  Al looks up to Grandpa Byron, who is wise, caring and has an incredible sense of humour.  Grandpa Byron was the character that really stood out for me.

Ross Welford is an author that I’ll be watching.  I can’t wait to see what he writes next!

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Interview with Thalia Kalkipsakis, author of Lifespan of Starlight

Thalia Kalkipsakis’ latest book, Lifespan of Starlight is one of my recent favourite young adult books.  It’s an incredibly exciting, fresh and unique story about time travel.  You can read my review here on the blog.

I had a few questions about Lifespan of Starlight, Thalia’s vision of time travel.  Thalia very kindly answered my questions and you can read my interview with her below.

  • What inspired you to write Lifespan of Starlight?

I love the idea of a hidden skill or ability that all humans possess – exploring how it might be discovered and what it could be. But for me the ‘ability’ is really just a metaphor for human ambition and the way imagination can lead to creation. I’m also fascinated by time – and the variety of ways we experience time – so it was easy to work out what the hidden ability would be: conscious control over where we move in time.

At the moment, human beings are facing huge challenges – both in terms of how technology impacts on our lives and also how our lives impact on the environment – but I still look to the future with a sense of hope. So the ability to time travel in the story is also a metaphor for our future inventions and resilience. I believe that we might even surprise ourselves.

And the main character? Strangely it was our cat who inspired Scout’s character. The cat was from an animal rescue shelter and the runt of the litter. She seemed so powerless, but she is actually quite cunning and resourceful once you get to know her. I wanted to write a character that has no power, no rights, but uses creativity and courage to survive.

  •  Is your vision of time travel based on real scientific principles? Is there such a thing as Relative Time Theory?

I chose the name Relative Time Theory as a nod to Einstein’s theory of relativity, but I also took a huge amount of fictional licence in order to make the story work. The idea that we can control our experience of time is entirely my own leap of fun. But once you make that leap I like the way it relates to the true concept of spacetime – once you completely stop your progress through time, you also cease to exist physically in space. At least, that’s how it works in the story.

  • Your vision of time travel in Lifespan of Starlight is not a stereotypical idea of time travel.  What are your rules of time travel in your story?

Since the initial seed of the idea was an ability that exists in us all, it was important to me that it didn’t come easily – so no flux capacitors or sonic screwdrivers here J. It is simply a matter of meditating to a point where your ‘flow through time’ reaches a standstill, then (within limits) you choose your return point. Human beings are capable of amazing things but we also have to overcome our weaknesses and flaws, so things like confidence and fear impact on how well a character can time skip. And as with every skill you might try to master, your ability to time skip also improves with practise. In book 1 and even more in book 2, the characters also struggle to hit their chosen time for return.

The idea that you can only travel in one direction also relates to our experience of time – we always experience time progressing forwards, we never see the world unravelling around us. So even though the characters begin to believe that it’s impossible to go back, in my mind and within the rules of that world, I do imagine that going backwards is possible, but it’s our difficulty comprehending ‘backwards’ that renders it almost impossible to achieve. Although, that’s an issue for book 2…

  • If you could time jump, how far ahead would you want to go?

I don’t think I would jump very far ahead at all. Once I began spending time in that world, it didn’t take me long to realise the impact of jumping ahead in terms of leaving behind the people you love. This issue looms large in book 2 but I think it’s also true to how life would be if time skipping were real. Since I could only go forwards, I’d only want to time jump if everyone I care about could come with me. But if I knew I could easily come back to ‘now’? In that case, my answer’s completely different. Let’s start with 2084 and I’d get to see how closely the world in the Lifespan of Starlight matches reality.

  • What is your favourite book and movie about time travel?

Aw, only one book and movie? It’s difficult to choose, but I can say that my favourites all link time travel with a sense of genuine human experience.

For adults, it’s hard to go past The Time Traveler’s Wife by Audrey Niffeneger: it’s both a book and a movie. The way time travel impacts on the character’s daily lives rings so true that you end up believing that it’s real.

For kids, I’d have to choose Cicada Summer by Kate Constable. I don’t want to give anything away, but one of the main twists always gives me a lump in the throat. It’s not a movie, but it should be.

  • If you could choose a song to be the theme song for Lifespan of Starlight what would it be?

Gosh, what a great question. Pity I don’t have a decent answer. I know this is cheating but it’s hard to go past the soundtrack to the movie Run Lola Run. I love the lyrics: “I wish I was a writer, who sees what’s yet unseen”.

So, just cos they’re awesome, here are links to the trailer for the movie and the title song:

  • You leave readers on a cliff-hanger ending.  How long do we have to wait for book two and do you know the title?

It wasn’t so much about leaving readers hanging, but I did want to give readers that sense of jumping into the unknown – reaching the end of the story and not knowing where the next story would begin.

Book two has a couple of twists and surprises – it’s due for release in April 2016 and the working title is ‘Split Infinity’.

  • Have you planned the trilogy or do you have to see where Scout takes you?

The short answer is ‘yes to both’. I did have a sense of the overall structure very early on, but it was only when I recognised three distinct sections that I began to think it might work as a trilogy. The identity of the woman in the cave, for example, I’ve always known would be revealed in book 3. But I’ve also left enough room for the characters to breathe – to let them lead the story rather than the other way around. I’ve already found in book 2 that Scout is brave enough to take on more than I had planned.

Grab a copy of Lifespan of Starlight from your library or bookshop now.  Stay tuned for the chance to win a signed copy of Lifespan of Starlight next week.

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Lifespan of Starlight by Thalia Kalkipsakis

I love books, movies and TV series about time travel.  The Back to the Future trilogy are some of my all-time favourite movies and I love Doctor Who.  I love a good wibbly-wobbly, timey-wimey story, especially when it’s fresh and unique.  Thalia Kalkipsakis’ new book, Lifespan of Starlight, is exactly that and it’s incredibly exciting!

It already lies dormant within you: the ability to move within time. In 2084, three teenagers discover the secret to time travel. At first their jumps cover only a few seconds, but soon they master the technique and combat their fear of jumping into the unknown. It’s dangerous. It’s illegal. And it’s utterly worth it for the full-body bliss of each return. As their ability to time jump grows into days and weeks, the group begins to push beyond their limits, with terrifying consequences. Could they travel as far as ten years, to escape the authorities? They are desperate enough to find out. But before they jump they must be sure, because it only works in one direction. Once you trip forwards, there’s no coming back.

Lifespan of Starlight is an amazing book that had me hooked from start to finish.  Thalia’s vision of time travel is unlike anything I’ve come across before, which is what hooked me in.  Thalia builds the suspense and tension throughout and I had to keep reading to find out how it would end.

Scout is an illegal.  She has lived her life sharing her mother’s food and water rations and living ‘off the grid.’  If anyone found out that she was illegal she’d be in serious trouble.  Her life changes forever when she finds a strange woman in her sanctuary (a secret cave in a park), a woman who takes her last breath just minutes after Scout meets her.  This woman has the chip of a citizen and Scout takes it, hoping it will give her opportunities she’s never had before.  However, when Scout trawls back through the woman’s history, there are gaps where she seems to disappear for large chunks of time.  Scout’s search for the truth of the woman’s identity leads her to Mason and Boc, two teenage guys who believe she holds the key to time jumping.  Scout sets up a new life for herself using her newly acquired chip and life starts to look up.  As Scout and her friends start to understand time jumping they become able to time jump for longer and longer, from minutes to hours to days.  The more they test the limits though, the more dangerous things become, until they have to make a huge decision.

Unlike so many sci-fi books for teens there is no romance in Lifespan of Starlight.  This means there is no complicated relationship to get in the way of the story.  The difficult decisions that Scout has to make mainly relate to her mum.  Her mum has helped protect her and made sure that she has everything she needs to survive, so Scout has to think about how her time jumps affect her mum.  When Scout gets the chip her main thoughts are how she can repay her mum for all the food she has shared with her.

Thalia leaves you on the edge of your seat with a cliff-hanger ending.  I certainly can’t wait to read the second book in the trilogy!

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Back to Black Brick by Sarah Moore Fitzgerald

Sometimes a story can come along at exactly the right time.  It can mirror something that is happening in your own life and really strike a chord with you.  Back to Black Brick is a story about a grandfather who has Alzheimer’s Disease and his grandson, Cosmo, who tries everything he can to stop him losing his memory.  My nan has early stage dementia so I can completely understand how Cosmo feels.  Cosmo, however, does something that I can’t do – he travels back in time to meet his grandfather as a young man.

Cosmo’s brother Brian died when he was ten years old. His mum hides her grief and Cosmo lives with his grandparents. They’ve been carefree days as Granddad buys him a horse called John and teaches him all he knows about horses. But the good times have to come to an end and although he doesn’t want to admit it, Cosmo knows his Granddad is losing his mind. So on one of the rare occasions when Granddad seems to recognise him, Cosmo is bemused that he gives him a key to Blackbrick Abbey and urges him to go there. Cosmo shrugs it off, but gradually Blackbrick draws him in… Cosmo arrives there, scared and lonely, and is dropped off at the crumbling gates of a huge house. As he goes in, the gates close, and when he turns to look, they’re rusty and padlocked as if they haven’t been opened in years. Cosmo finds himself face to face with his grandfather as a young man, and questions begin to form in his mind: can Cosmo change the course of his family’s future?

Back to Black Brick is a captivating story about families, the secrets that they keep, and the pain they hold inside.  Sarah Moore Fitzgerald wraps this all up with plenty of mystery, a dash of history, and time travel.  It’s a time-slip story but quite different from similar stories I’ve read.  When time travel is involved the characters generally have to think about how their actions in the past will affect the future, but Cosmo does everything he can to try and change the future.  He wants to try and stop his grandfather’s memory from fading when he’s older, so he tells him about things that he’ll need to remember for later in life.

As soon as I heard Cosmo’s voice I knew I would really like this character.  Cosmo is a loner who has been affected by the death of his brother, the abandonment of his mother, and his grandfather’s worsening condition.  From the first few paragraphs you know how much Cosmo loves and admires his grandfather.  He wants to do everything he possibly can to help stop his grandfather losing his memory and would hate for him to have to go into a home.  So when Cosmo gets the chance to meet his grandfather as a young man he believes this is his chance to change the future and make things right.

There were several things that I really loved about Back to Black Brick.  I thought the characters were very well developed and you felt like you were part of their gang.  I especially liked the way that you could see the personality traits mirrored in both the young and old version of Cosmo’s grandfather, Kevin (like the ‘Ah, fantastic’ when he’d drink tea).  The other thing that I loved about the story is the way that Sarah explains how the time travel happened and the way that Cosmo’s visit to the past affected the future.  I like the way that this explanation rounds off the story but still leaves you with a sense of mystery.

4 out of 5 stars

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