Time Travelling With a Hamster, by Ross Welford

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‘My dad died twice. Once when he was thirty-nine, and again four years later when he was twelve’

I mean, who could possible resist an opening like that? I only picked up Ross Welford’s Time Travelling with a Hamster because it was on the Waterstones Children’s Book Prize shortlist. I doubt I would have bothered with it otherwise – and that would have been a terrible tragedy because it has instantly become one of my most favourite books ever. Described to me by the nice lady in Waterstones as ‘science fiction for a younger age group’, it reminds me of Malorie Blackman’s Hacker, which I ready many times growing up even though the computing elements rapidly went out of date, and Louis Sachar’s The Cardturner.

The premise of the book is simple: twelve year-old Al must travel back in time to prevent his father’s death. Obviously, anyone clued up on science fiction will know that this is a very risky thing to be doing, but the complexities of time-travel are dealt with clearly and logically and it’s all great fun. Sticklers for scientific accuracy will may baulk at the idea of a time machine made out of an old laptop and a tin tub, but I managed to thoroughly impress some friends with the phrase ‘non-gravitational multi-versal static matter repositioning’ so I’m not complaining!

Besides, what I particularly liked about this book was that all the people in it are very normal. They’re the people you meet everyday, flawed and brave and brilliant in their ordinariness. The story deals as much with memory as it does with time-travel, and through this it maintains it’s humanity throughout. It’s time travel with a conscience, and if it doesn’t make you want to be a better person I don’t know what will. Read it. Read it now.

My only complaint is that I can’t go and have a nice chat and cup of chai with Al’s Grandpa Byron. He sounds fab.

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