This middle-grade novel sees two siblings time traveling after mischievous alterations remove morning breakfast from history.
One night, during a harsh New England snowstorm, 12-year-old Iphigenia, called Phigg, decides to make hot chocolate. Uncle Phineas is watching her and her younger brother, Clyde, while their parents, who are traveling professors, are on a trip. Suddenly, Phineas exclaims that he’s lost his pocket watch. He enlists Phigg’s help in searching for it but warns, “Whatever you do, do not open the case and look at the dials.” But when she finds it, the watch case is already open. Handling the watch prompts an explosion of thoughts and a sensory overload. Phigg regains her composure in a seemingly normal kitchen. Yet her parents are no longer professors—they are sewage inspectors who plan to serve raw liver and fish heads for the family’s nightly breakfast. Clyde, usually tinkering with electronics, is loafing until Phigg hands him the watch, which returns his memories of how life should be. Soon, the device begins speaking to them, introducing itself as the Watcher and informing the kids that they are now apprentice Timekeepers. Phineas has been kidnapped, so they must halt a Timebreaker and his minions who have damaged breakfast and nearly crippled civilization. In this fantasy, Berkin (Cut to Wagstaff, 2012) forges humor and intellect into quite a sharp narrative. His employment of time-travel motifs is sometimes goofy, like the dwarfish Timegoblins, who eat vital artifacts and bring chaos to history. Other devices, like quantum linkage, help the siblings borrow their appearances “from alternate versions” of themselves and introduce young readers to a complicated scientific field. Gastronomic themes also prevail, as time disturbances focus on the invention of the microwave in 1946; the creation of hot sauce in Louisiana in 1868; and the first baking of bread in ancient Egypt. The author offers young and older readers excellent wisdom: “Our world” is “an ongoing experiment of the dreams, ideas, successes and failures of billions of minds.” Timegoblin antics ensure an irresistible sequel.
This fantasy delivers an energetic ode to quantum mechanics and the culinary arts.