Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Nick of Time

Biblio Bits Nick of Time by Ted Bell, St. Martin's Griffin, 2009 reprint (original publication date 2008) (ISBN 9780312380687)

Reading Level/Interest Age 10-12

Genre Adventure, historical fiction

Plot Summary
Nick lives with his lighthouse-keeping family on one of the Channel Islands in the late 1930s. Things are a little too quiet for Nick until he accidentally discovers a hidden drawer in his dad's desk; it hides a log book of German U-boat sightings, and strong evidence that his father is reporting his findings to none other than Winston Churchill. If this isn't enough, he and his sister discover an unusual sea chest on one of their favorite beaches and later that day a pair of sinister pirates literally appear out of thin air, demanding the return of something that, they say, belongs to them. With Nazis and pirates at every turn, Nick's bravery, cunning, and knowledge of his small island and its waters become an essential key to survival.

Critical Evaluation
While reluctant readers might get sucked into this book by the fast-paced action, the length of the book might inhibit them from attempting it, at over 450 pages. The characters seem deliberately caricatured: Nick is the brave boy hero who finds a time machine (made by Leonardo daVinci), with supporting cast members Billy Blood (kidsnatching, sinister pirate whose greed stops at nothing), Lord Hawke (reclusive and broody, former world-class detective, millionaire), and those darned Nazis who are filling up the Channel with their U-boats. The dialogue is often stilted, the action comes with too-predictable regularity, and the plot is just too neat, although the details never quite add up. Perhaps the author, who mainly writes for adults, thinks that kids won't mind these flaws. It felt a little like a comic book, which is not a slight on comics, but a reference to the Tintin-like theme of boy-hero-saving-the-world.

This being said, my own tween boy really loved this book for the action, the sailing lingo, the time travel, and swashbuckling adventure. It prompted him to want more historical fiction books on WWII.

Reader's Annotation
A boy adventurer of the old-school variety, spying on Nazis and fighting pirates, with a time machine on his side and action in every chapter.

Author Information
Ted Bell had a successful career in advertising at several large firms around the world. Since his retirement from this career in 2001, he has been writing full-time, primarily for adults. Given that one of his adult books is called Hawke and another Pirate, I have to wonder if this title was a clever marketing ploy to gain more readership (the kids that read Nick of Time might grow up to read his other books). Bell resides in Florida and Colorado. (Information in this author biography comes from the author's website and wikipedia.)

Challenge issues

Booktalking Ideas
Nick of Time would be a great inclusion in a booktalk on fast-paced adventure books. It's unique in that it is has elements of fantasy (time travel) and a historical fiction (Nazis, pirates) genres. The key appeal here though is that the pace keeps a reader turning pages. So I could envision it in a booktalk that included other fiction and non-fiction titles in the adventure/adrenalin genre that fit this pace and style.

Curriculum Ties
If my son's experience is any indicator, perhaps this book could pave the way for more in-depth study of WWII and the complexities surrounding the English's involvement in the early part of the war. Perhaps readers of this book could be encouraged (or might be intrinsically motivated) to pursue research about what in this book was truth and what was fabrication.

Why this book?
The fast pacing and action-packed adventure will keep the attention of readers who have enjoyed the style of Riordan's The Lightning Thief or Patterson's Maximum Ride series. The historical components of the story might appeal to some, while the time travel machine might appeal to others.


According to Wikipedia, a sequel to Nick of Time is due out in early 2010, entitled The Time Pirate.

Rockport Public Library owns?

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