Kirkus Reviews QR Code
CHRONAL ENGINE by Greg Leitich Smith


by Greg Leitich Smith & illustrated by Henry Blake

Age Range: 10 - 12

Pub Date: March 20th, 2012
ISBN: 978-0-547-60849-5
Publisher: Clarion

A Back to the Future–style romp through time, though with more loose ends than a bowl of spaghetti.

Hardly have teen twins Kyle and Emma and their younger brother (and narrator) Max arrived for a stay at their reclusive grandfather’s Texas ranch than the old man announces that he’s about to have a massive heart attack, shows them a working time machine in the basement and sends them out to a nearby paleontological site where they find fossilized sneaker prints among the dinosaur tracks. Then a stranger grabs Emma and vanishes in a flash of light—leaving the remaining sibs and a ranch hand’s bow-wielding daughter Petra to zoom in a Volkswagen Beetle back 70 million–plus years to the rescue. Not only does the late Cretaceous landscape turn out to be well stocked with crocodilian Deinosuchus and other toothy predators, a human gent falsely (as it turns out) claiming to be a refugee from 1919 steps out of the bushes to guide the others to the evidently dino-proof frame house in which Emma is being held. Everyone steams back to the present on the kidnapper’s motor launch, which is also fitted out as a time machine. Showing blithe disregard for potential paradoxes, the author sheds enough light on his byzantine back story to ensure that the protagonists will be taking more trips through time and closes with notes on dinosaurs and on the history of “Robinsonades.”

Action and enthusiasm aplenty, but, like most time-travel tales, not much for internal logic. (recommended reading) (Science fiction. 10-12)