Back to the Future meets The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time in this original, poignant, race-against-time story about a boy who travels back to 1984 to save his father’s life.
My dad died twice. Once when he was thirty-nine and again four years later, when he was twelve. On his twelfth birthday, Al Chaudhury receives a letter from his dead father. It directs him to the bunker of their old house, where Al finds a time machine (an ancient computer and a tin bucket). The letter also outlines a mission: travel back to 1984 and prevent the go-kart accident that will eventually take his father’s life. But as Al soon discovers, whizzing back thirty years requires not only imagination and courage, but also lying to your mom, stealing a moped, and setting your school on fire—oh, and keeping your pet hamster safe. With a literary edge and tons of commerical appeal, this incredible debut has it all: heart, humor, vividly imagined characters, and a pitch-perfect voice.
The lighthearted title of British writer Welford's debut misleads a bit: this is a heavy story about loss that asks weighty scientific questions. Albert Einstein Hawking Chaudhury, a British boy of Indian descent, receives two unusual gifts for his 12th birthday: a hamster and a letter from his late father, Pye (short for Pythagoras), who died suddenly four years earlier, devastating Al. The startling letter makes Al's friendless existence seem trivial: Pye wants Al to use a time machine hidden at the family's former home to avert the childhood injury that will eventually lead to his death at age 39. "Great birthday present, Dad," Al thinks before embarking on a risky mission that begins with vehicle theft and ends with arson. All the while, Welford has Al grapple with complex questions about the effects of altering the space-time continuum, including whether an unsuccessful mission might mean erasing himself. Though Welford's story runs a tad long and can get rather complicated (perhaps understandably given his approach to the theoretical subject), it should find a home with readers looking for mind-expanding, thought-provoking adventures. Ages 8 12.