________________ CM . . . . Volume XV Number 12 . . . . February 6, 2009

cover Newton and the Time Machine.

Michael McGowan. Illustrated by Shelagh McNulty.
Toronto, ON: HarperCollins Canada, 2008. 209 pp., pbk., $14.99.
ISBN 978-0-00-639550-8.

Subject Heading:
Inventions-Juvenile literature.

Grades 3-6 / Ages 8-11.

Review by Harriet Zaidman.

**½ /4


Newton was having serious, serious doubts that his latest invention – a time – machine – was ready to be field-tested.

“What do you think? Should we start it up?” Max, his best friend, asked.

Newton had been staring at the machine for more than four minutes without moving. “Shh!” Newton put up a finger. Now was not a good time to be answering questions. “I’m trying to concentrate.” He coughed loudly, wishing that Herbert would stop licking Queen Gertrude’s toes. The slurping made it hard to think. They were the rulers of the Kingdom of the Merriwarts – a peaceful race of giants who lived in trees – and Newton wished they’d behave a tad more…royally.

The newlyweds ignored him. To Merriwarts toe-licking was like dogs sniffing each others’ butts – completely natural. Slobber was pooling on the floor of his laboratory – a converted Merriwart tree fort.

Michael McGowan has found a formula to get non-readers, especially boys, to turn to page 2. He has included an intriguing idea – time travel – and images of gross body functions in only the first few paragraphs of his latest novel, Newton and the Time Machine.

    This story is a sequel to Newton and the Giant, which saw Newton, the 10-year-old science whiz escaping from his soccer-mad quadruplet brothers through a portal where he began an adventure with the peaceable giants of Merriwarts.

    Newton now has a laboratory in the Merriwarts forest, a reward for saving the kingdom. Wanting to see the dinosaurs, he invents a time machine to zip back to the past, but, as he counts down, he sees some smoke. He tries to abort the launch, but the machine disappears, taking Herbert and Gertrude along, and leaving a cloverleaf behind. What follows is a generally plot-driven tale – a best friend with enuresis (look that up!), a plastic action figure with attitude, a friendly witch, greedy, cruel leprechauns, a trip to Ireland in a Fedex box, a dangerous journey, and finally, a trip back in time to the dinosaurs. Newton’s brilliance and Max’s new-found bravery combine to save everyone from execution at the hands of the leprechauns and from becoming lunch for a prehistoric bird.

    Readers know the adventures will continue, though, since Newton comes back into the present with a pterodactyl egg in his knapsack. There are lots of smelly events, ugly people, threatened deaths, bad weather, and portals – far too many portals. That being said, the situations create a lot of humour. Some children will get a laugh and a thrill from the challenges Newton and his pals face as they try to rescue their giant friends, get back to the present and stop the Merriwarts kingdom from being destroyed. If a child is intrigued enough to finish a 211-page book, that’s an accomplishment.

    Newton and the Time Machine is good for bulk reading and can be used by teachers to encourage reluctant writers.


Harriet Zaidman is a teacher-librarian in Winnipeg, MB.

To comment on this title or this review, send mail to cm@umanitoba.ca.

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