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I have just finished this and have been left more wowed than I have in years. What an amazing story!

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Al’s father is dead and on his 12th birthday he’s given a letter that his late father left for him. This explains that his father had discovered a way to travel in time and he wants Al to go back in time to prevent his death. As the book cover suggests, this doesn’t all go to plan as Al’s father dies a second time and it’s all Al’s fault!

The writing is superb. Al’s travels are full of asides about TV, growing up and his endearing relationship with his grandfather as well as drawing numerous contrasts between modern childhood and the experiences of children in the 1980’s. Written in the first person, these asides allow us to get to know Al really well, draws us into his troubles and makes us root for him.

The book never slows down. It moves at a cracking pace. The sheer number of different, well thought-out, events is impressive. I confess to being a little bit surprised though at the amount of science in the book (you really do learn about the physics of time travel!). I’m not convinced that I would have followed it all completely at the age of twelve but it’s done well and through the eyes of Al. That said, Al is a pretty smart kid and I suspect that this book is very much aimed towards the upper end of the age range it’s positioned for.

I also couldn’t help but wonder at the cover artwork. It struck me as being likely to attract younger readers, especially as the title involves a hamster! Alan Shearer (Al’s hamster) does have a key role to play but this is not a cute story about a boy and his pet. It’s a sophisticated story about time travel and a boys quest to save his father and the dangers that come with meddling in space-time.

The story is also quite complex. The planning that must have gone into it is mind-boggling, not to mention very, very impressive indeed. Various strands of the tale draw together at the end to provide a truly memorable ending that will leave you wanting to start all over again.

It’s a fabulous story and one of the best middle grade books I have read in years. Highly recommended to children 10+.

Rating out of 5: ♦♦♦♦♦

Suggested age: 10+

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