Tuckie and Huggs are two kids who find a time machine. They happen across it by accident and immediately begin using it, first to travel to the future, then to the past. As they go back and forth, a number of mysteries begin to present themselves, with regards to various characters and events and how they will unfold (or did unfold, depending on your point of view). They also need to figure out how to fix the time travel device when it malfunctions and ultimately make it safely home.
If that sounds simple and straightforward—it’s anything but. That’s because the main charm of this book is how it’s read. It’s heralded as “a Start-in-the-Middle book.” The pages in the book are all in chronological order, from pre-historic times to the apocalypse. But we begin the story right in the center of the book, which is the present, and follow Tuckie and Huggs’ journey back and forth through the pages as they travel to all different time periods.
This is accomplished through a series of color-coded arrows. When our heroes push the lever on the time machine forward a little, an arrow directs us a few pages forward to the future. If they push the lever forward a lot, another arrow directs us all the way to the end of the book to see a much more distant future. If they push the lever backwards, we follow another arrow back toward the beginning of the book, where we see Tuckie and Huggs visit various past events.
If this sounds confusing, it’s not, at least for the most part. It’s a little odd at first, but you’ll get the hang of it in no time. I will admit, there were one or two places where the arrows become difficult or confusing to follow, particularly when the time machine begins to malfunction; however, in general, the journey up and down the “time sandwich” is part of the adventure and part of what makes the book so much fun.
The adventure the book takes us on certainly is a wild ride. We get to see everything from dinosaurs to disco, and robots to roller coasters, along with a full-scale alien invasion and much more. We also get to explore some of the nuances of time travel theory, such as time loops and the nature of causality. It has something for every time travel fan.
Author Matt Brennan may be one of the few people in this world who loves time travel as much as I do. The story he’s crafted is intricate and complex from beginning to end (or rather, from middle to end to beginning to middle to… you get the idea) and very satisfying.
That story is brought vividly to life by Jonathan Reich’s illustrations. He creates beautiful, detailed, colorful landscapes and cityscapes for all manner of time periods and situations, making each time period our heroes visit a unique and compelling world of its own.
Since it’s a children’s book, it’s a fairly quick read, even with the flipping back and forth of pages. I’d love to see more books like this. I’d love to see a version that’s several hundred pages long. I know Brennan has plans for more books of this nature (and there’s definitely room for sequels). Hundreds of pages might be a bit more of an undertaking than either the author or the illustrator is prepared for, but I can dream.
In the meantime, I loved this book and can’t recommend it enough. If you have kids, or if you’re just a kid at heart yourself, and love wild, fantastical time travel stories (and you don’t mind working a bit for them), then Time Sandwich is the book for you.
Creative Team: Matt Brennan (author), and Jonathan Reich (illustrator)
Publisher: Start in the Middle Books
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