The Book of Time
A book review for parents
This time-travel mystery, the first book translated from the French "The Book of Time" trilogy by Guillaume Prévost, is published by Arthur A. Levine Books, an imprint of Scholastic, Inc.
The Book of Time is written for kids ages 9 to 13. The age range reflects readability and not necessarily content appropriateness.
Ever since Sam Faulkner's mom died in a car accident three years earlier, Sam's dad, Allan, hasn't been the same. It's not unusual for Allan to disappear for several days at a time, but when his absence grows more lengthy — and he misses his son's birthday — Sam starts to poke around in the basement of his dad's dilapidated bookstore for clues to his father's whereabouts. There, he finds a strange statue and an old coin. By placing the coin in the center of the statue, he is transported to Viking-era Scotland. In his efforts to get home, he also lands in various places in time such as in the midst of a World War I battle, in medieval Europe and in Egypt during the building of the pyramids. With the help of his cousin Lily, the only one with whom he shares the truth about his travels, Sam finds evidence that his father is trapped in Dracula's castle during a much earlier time period. A confirming clue invites readers into book two of the trilogy.
Several of the historical circumstances in which Sam finds himself involve God-fearing people. Some are monks, who talk about the Lord's wisdom and believe Sam is a miracle sent from God to help them protect sacred documents. The monks believe St. Colm Cille (after whom their island was named) battled monsters, spoke with angels and God, and performed miracles. The soldier Sam helps also believes Sam was sent by the Lord. A man Sam meets in Europe says his wife's death was God's will; the same man later says something will happen if it's God's wish. One man in Europe accuses another of not being Christian because he appears to practice magic in his laboratory. Sam himself offers a few brief "prayers" for help, but they seem to be directed at no one in particular.
Allan, once a fun-loving father, is now described (though never actually portrayed in the book) as depressed and distant, disappearing for days at a time without telling anyone. Sam lives with his grandparents, who offer love, concern and support. Sam's grandparents take in stride the judgmental and condescending advice of Sam's aunt (Lily's mom) and her boyfriend. Sam meets many kind adults on his travels, including the monks in Scotland, an Egyptian laborer and a European artist, and they take Sam into their homes and care for him, despite not knowing who he is or where he's from.
Other Belief Systems
The statue that transports Sam back in time looks, he says, like some sort of totem or voodoo object that might have a terrible curse on it. A soldier gives Sam his "good luck" coin and says Sam's appearance is proof that it works. In ancient Egypt, a priest takes a ritual bath and recites prayers at the Temple of Ramses; the people also worship the god Thoth, who is the patron of magicians, the master of time and the juggler of days and seasons. One Egyptian priest who has traveled in time advises his son to serve his gods and cherish his family, and that nothing else really has much meaning based on what he's seen. The old neighbor living near Allan's bookstore says some believe the store has the evil eye. Grandma tells Sam she believes she can tell when his father is OK, which causes Sam to ponder whether he believes in ESP and premonitions. When Sam wins a judo match, he says he is lucky.
There are a few uses of the words darn, heck, turd, butt and God's name is included in phrases such as for ---'s sake, oh my --- and Good --- almighty. Sam also swears and curses, though no specific words appear in the text. Whenever Sam is transported into another time, the trip makes him vomit violently. A villain from the past nicks Sam's Adam's apple with a knife and causes him to bleed.
Sam says some of his friends seek to improve their knowledge of women while traveling abroad. At the judo match, one competitor sits in the stand and eagerly kisses his girlfriend all over. She wears a belly-bearing top.
If your children have read this book or someone has read it to them, consider these discussion topics:
- What modern invention does Sam compare to the time machine?
How is the Internet like a time machine?
In what ways does it teach you about the past?
In what ways does it fail to give you an accurate picture of history?
- What interesting things about history did you learn by reading this book?
When reading a story like this, how can you find out whether the historical information included is factual or the author's imagination?
- What lies does Sam tell to his grandparents, his aunt and her boyfriend?
What lies does he tell to the people in other times?
How could he have done what he needed to do without lying?
What would you have done in those situations?
At one point, Sam says he's so used to lying that he's figured out how to tell stories vague enough to earn him sympathy without getting him in trouble.
What's wrong with doing that?
Why does he take pride in being a good liar?
What does the Bible say about lying?
Should you take pride in being a good liar?
- How does Sam escape the bully, Monk, from his judo class?
If he hadn't been able to see slightly into the future to anticipate Monk's moves, what would have happened in the judo competition?
Does Sam really win the match?
Since you don't have Sam's special abilities, what would you say or do to handle a bully like Monk?
- Of Sam's relationships, which are loving, positive and respectful? Which are not?
What happens because of the disrespectful relationships?
How does God want you to treat your family members and others in your life?
How will you treat people who do not like or respect you?
How will you treat those you do not like or respect?
- If you could go back in time, which era or city would you choose, and why?
Which historical character would you most like to meet, and why?
- In which situations is Sam brave? In which is he fearful?
Would you consider him a hero? Why or why not?
What is a hero?
Are there any other characters who are heroic in the story?
Who are the villains, and what makes them so?
Mentions of alcohol: Sam finds two cans of beer (along with some other miscellaneous leftovers) in his dad's fridge after his dad goes missing. Sam later offers one of these beers to his aunt's boyfriend. An Egyptian servant complains that there is no beer left at his house, and the water is stagnant. An Egyptian priest gives Sam some honey beer. Sam enjoys its resulting feelings enough to make a mental note not to become an alcoholic. Later, the alcohol makes him feel sick. The old man living near Allan's shop drinks whiskey in front of Sam and Lily, though he gives them soda. A man in Europe serves hot-spiced wine to his guests.
Mentions of smoking: Several World War I soldiers smoke in their break room. Sam notes that some of his friends try smoking on their trips overseas.
Lying: Sam lies frequently and shamelessly. He lies to his grandparents and other adults about his hunt for his father, and he lies to the historical people he encounters about who he is and where he's from. Lily also lies to her mom and her mom's boyfriend. Both kids casually talk about how they'll try to make something up to cover for each other.
Book reviews cover the content, themes and worldviews of fiction books, not their literary merit, and equip parents to decide whether a book is appropriate for their children. A book's inclusion does not constitute an endorsement by Focus on the Family.