Thursday, August 27, 2009

Book Review: The Time Travelers, by Linda Buckley-Archer

Once they were back on the road, Parson Ledbury announced, "I know a tolerable inn some three or four miles hence. The innkeeper's wife is ugly as sin, but she cooks like an angel. I dined handsomely off a plate of tripe the last time I was there."

"What's tripe?" whispered Peter to Kate.

"Believe me, if you're still feeling sick, you don't want to know," she replied.

Londoner Peter Schock's much anticipated 12th birthday adventure is once again postponed by his father, so he's sent off with Margrit, the family's latest au pair, to visit her friends, the Dyers, at their family farm in Derbyshire. Peter's initial cranky observation is, "It's in the middle of nowhere." But things get interesting when he accompanies red-headed Kate Dyer, also 12, her dog Molly, and her father, Professor Dyer, to the professor's research office. What was supposed to be a quick trip before lunch to adjust settings on his colleague's antigravity machine goes terribly wrong. Something spooks Molly, who dashes out of the office, with Peter and Kate in hot pursuit. Seconds later, Molly and Professor Dyer are still there, but Peter and Kate have vanished!

As Kate's parents, Peter's parents, NASA (yes that NASA) and the police frantically investigate the kids' disappearance, Kate and Peter find themselves and the antigravity machine still in Derbyshire...but out in a field, and nearly 300 years in the past: 1763. Worse, nearly as soon as they arrive, the machine - their only ticket home - is stolen by the mysterious Tar Man. Will their parents ever figure out what happened? And will they ever get home? Or are they forever stranded in 1763?

For Teachers and Librarians:
This book is a win-win: lots of teaching material for you, and lots of action, mystery, and fun for your students. The Time Travelers is an exciting mix of science fiction, adventure, fantasy, and history. It is a wonderful introduction to the culture of 1700's England: manner of dress, modes of travel, crime and punishment and the justice system, types of entertainment, modes of communication, and even manner of speech. (Your students will get a good giggle over the many references to "showing your bottom," a phrase which means something distinctly different today than it did in 1763!) Science comes into play as well, with discussions of medical care (blood letting was commonplace in the 18th century), dark matter, and static electricity. You can delve intelligently into science fiction and theories on time travel and it's possible advantages and consequences, or hold a debate on scientific progress - how much is too much, etc. Historical figures and their contributions to society are hinted at, too (the kids meet Charles Darwin's grandfather, and the King and Queen of England). There are many more ways to incorporate this book into your classroom studies. How will you use it with your students?

For Parents, Grandparents and Caregivers:
The Time Travelers is a wonderful book, whether you enjoy it while reading it aloud to your kids, or whether they read it on their own, or whether you keep it to yourself to read first, then share it with your kiddos. Besides being full of action and mystery, and having the ever-alluring element of time travel, this book deftly weaves in themes of loyalty, love, trust, family, betrayal, forgiveness, and friendship. It is fast-paced, funny, exciting, touching, and informational in a not-at-all-obvious kind of way, all at the same time, and appeals easily to both boys and girls. And if your kids love this one, there are two more in the trilogy that continue the adventure.

For the Kids:
The Time Travelers is most awesome, and a book you won't want to put down. Twelve-year-olds Peter Schock and Kate Dyer meet in an accident of fate, and then through another accident of science (or is it science fiction?) find themselves hurled back in time via antigravity machine, and plopped in England, out in the middle of 1763! The frighteningly mysterious Tar Man finds them first, and steals the machine that traveled with them. But that machine is their only way back. Then they meet the curiously mysterious Gideon Seymour, who vows to help them get their antigravity machine back, and get back home. Somehow.

For Everyone Else:
The Time Travelers will appeal to adults as well as kids. It's funny! It's intriguing! You'll learn a thing or two (a whole different use of the word "bottom," for one), and come away wanting more! Good thing there are two more books in this trilogy, to keep the fun coming.

Wrapping Up:
The Time Travelers is a book you will have trouble putting down. Weaving together fantasy, history, science fiction and adventure is no easy task, but Linda Buckley-Archer has done a masterful job. Buy it or borrow it - but most definitely read it. You'll be glad you did.

Title: The Time Travelers
Author: Linda Buckley-Archer
Cover Design: Lizzy Bromley
Cover Illustration: copyright 2007 by James Jean
Pages: 416
Reading Level: Ages 9-13
Publisher and Date: Simon & Schuster Children's Publishing
Edition: 1st Aladdin Paperbacks Edition
Language: English
Published In: United States
Price: $7.99
ISBN-10: 1416915265
ISBN-13: 978-1416915263

Author Spotlight: Linda Buckley-Archer

One could say that Linda Buckley-Archer is something of an accidental novelist. Originally trained as a linguist, she started writing what came to be known as The Gideon Trilogy in June, 2000, to entertain her children.

She read her work to them in the evenings, after Sunday dinner. Her family's positive reaction to the readings made her consider developing her writing into a potential novel. Of her writing skill, she says, "It is no exaggeration to say that I learned how to write from gauging their reactions to my words."

Originally trained as a linguist, Mrs. Buckley-Archer lectured in France for many years before becoming a full-time novelist and script writer. In addition to The Gideon Trilogy - The Time Travelers (US, 2007), The Time Thief (US, 2008), and The Time Quake (recently out in the UK, and due for release in the US on October 6, 2009) - she has written a TV drama for the BBC, several radio dramas, and various journalistic pieces for newspapers.

Mrs. Buckley-Archer was born in Sussex, England in 1958, and spend much of her childhood in rural Staffordshire. Now, she lives in London with her husband and two children.

*Also found information on Pulse Blogfest page for Linda Buckley-Archer, but that link no longer works (

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Huh. I Write About Toilet Paper More Than I Thought.

August 26th is a day to honor that item which we all use several times a day (or at least I sure hope we all do), but we don't give much thought to - at least until that awful moment when we reach for it, only to find an empty cardboard tube. And not a spare roll in sight.

That's right. Once again, Hooray! It's Toilet Paper Day! Since I already wrote about it last year, I thought I would link back to it for anyone who missed it the first time around. G'head. Click the link for a look-see. I'll wait...

Back now? OK. So then, on a hunch, I scrolled up to this blog's search box and typed in "toilet paper."

Really? I thought, when the results popped up. Do I really write about TP so very much? Then I scrolled down through the posts.

Oh. Yep. I do.

But I'm not in the least surprised. Not really. In my defense, I do have a somewhat, er, regressed, sense of humor, Number One. (Read all about it here, and here, to name just a couple.) And Number Two (snort!), it's all circumstantial.

See, the December '08 TP post all centered around my Pavlovian response of making sure to buy lots and lots of toilet paper every time my parents are supposed to visit. That one isn't my fault. You'll see when you read it. I was conditioned, for goodness' sake. (Although, one could argue that said conditioning would never have occurred had I been better prepared for inclement weather on the day of the incident that has forever triggered mass TP purchase upon parental visitation. But, whatever.)

The next one, the New Year's Day '09 TP post, hinged on the Pavlovian TP post. If that Pavlovian TP post (which was totally not my fault) had not happened, I wouldn't have even been writing at all about TP in the NYD TP post, because my parents would never have given me what most would say is a rather unusual choice in holiday gift giving.

Still with me? OK. Moving on to the January 15, '09 TP post: the advertisement they must have custom-designed just for me. Now, this one...this one...well, I have no excuse for this one. It all goes back to my Moderately Warped Sense of Humor (scroll down to yesterday's post).

Ahem. Let's just keep rolling, shall we, to the last post I have (for now) that's labeled with "toilet paper." This TP story is all wrapped around a holiday again - Valentine's Day, this time. And, well, it involves, erm, my parents visiting...and, uh, visitation preparations, and...yeah, pretty much right back to the whole Pavlov thing, and conditioning, and it's all just a whole big, huge, ginormous vicious cycle, you see?

So I'm trapped, wrapped, and practically swaddled in TP. Not that I mind, given the state of my mind. Besides, I really have no choice. The darn stuff just seems to stick to me - at least figuratively - whether I like it or not.

Oh, and one last thing: since I've mentioned my parents so much in this post, I feel it's only fair to give some mention to my husband C's parents, too. Or at least one of them. Turns out, Toilet Paper Day is also the same day as my mother-in-law's birthday. Oh, Happy Coincidence! And seeing as how this year is a milestone birthday for her, I know exactly what we're getting her.

Now, how are we gonna fit all 60 rolls of toilet paper in the trunk?

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Random Wonderings on a Summer Afternoon

Three of us here at Chez Wheedleton have always had slightly warped senses of humor. I make no apologies. We come by it naturally. See, the Ten-Year-Old-Boy Funny Bone has been genetically and environmentally passed down from me to the kiddos, much to the chagrin of my ever-patient husband, C. (However, we are oh, so gradually wearing him down: lately he's been joining the fray. Who knew?)

Plus, living Slightly Out in the Boonies has necessitated an inordinate amount of idle time in the car when running errands. And as we wander from errand place to errand place to errand place, our minds tend to wander from the grin-worthy, to the moderately funny, to the patently absurd, the longer our behinds are belted into the car seats.

And so, our Slightly Warped Senses of Humor have morphed into Moderately Warped Senses of Humor. I blame the idle car time for the escalation. Ahem.

Aaaaanyway, to prove my point, let me give you a little snippet of conversational life in the Wheedleton-Mobile: there we were, riding along, on our way home from our weekly grocery run, when the conversation turned to what happened in the latest episode of the Cartoon Network show, Dude, What Would Happen? If you've never seen it, yes, it's what you think: three dudes sitting around wondering what would happen if [insert absurd event here], then trying it out. (We're easily entertained.) And of course, the DWWH conversation segued nicely into a little chat about our own What If Wonders:

What If...a million-bazillion-gazillion-infinity-and-beyond flies all got together in one place and broke wind...all at the same time?


What gathered up all the dung from every elephant in the world - as much as they made in one day - and stacked it all up, one plop on top of the other? How high would the Pile-O-Poo be?

and finally:

What If... everything and everybody in the whole entire world...all passed gas at the same time?

Each What If raised an increasingly hoot-filled discussion of all the likely scenarios that might play out, should Wonder become Reality. By the time we got to the last What If, we were all wiping hysterical tears from our eyes and gasping for breath...

from the guffaws, not from actual gas...

at least, not this time...

Friday, August 14, 2009

Sandcastles, Sculptures and Fun! Oh, My!

Ahhh, sand: You can dig in it. You can bury your toes in it. You can throw it at your sister (though that may not be wise - especially if you're both adults now and she's faster than you...) But the coolest thing about sand is that you can build with it - everything from the most rudimentary castle to the most intricate sculpture. And where there are sand castles and sand sculptures, there are bound to be competitions - and I found plenty:

If You Hurry, You Can Still Catch These:

This year's Sandcastle and Sculpture Day, held annually on Jetties Beach and sponsored by the Nantucket Island Chamber of Commerce and the Nantucket Island School of Design and the Arts (NISDA), is all set for tomorrow, August 15, 2009. If you registered by the August 14 deadline and paid your $10 fee to compete, you'll be up to your knees and elbows in sand come tomorrow. Missed the deadline? Not gifted with Mad Sculpting Skills? No worries - you can spectate the festivities and cheer on the more artistic among us absolutely free.

Not to be outdone, Crane Beach in Ipswitch, Massachusetts is holding their own sand sculpture competition tomorrow, too: Crane Beach SandBlast! This year's theme is "From Ship to Shore," celebrating Ipswitch's 375th anniversary as well as the town's maritime land and sea history. Enter to join the competition, or watch the masters at work - it sounds fun either way!

Rats! Missed These for This Year, But Thank Goodness For Digital Pics:

Already tired of sand between your toes as Summer 2009

winds down? There's no time like the present to start planning for next year. Here are a few competitions already done for 2009, but check 'em out - you may want to wander to one of these next year:

  • Family Sand Sculpture Competition - Held in Ocean Park, Old Orchard Beach, Maine.
  • New England Sand Sculpting Festival - Held in Revere Beach, Massachusetts. The link will take you to the event's main page - great pics of past entries that will blow your mind!
  • U.S. Open Sandcastle Competition - Held in Imperial Beach, San Diego, California. Here's a Sand Diego News Network article about this year's festivities, complete with fab photos.
  • Annual SandSations Sandcastle Competition - Held in Long Beach, Washington. Free Hot dogs! Evening bonfire! Sculptors of all abilities! Fun! Check out the Long Beach Peninsula Visitor's Bureau's website for pics of this year's winners.
  • Cannon Beach Sandcastle Contest - This June 2009 marked their 45th annual competition - fun for the whole family. Check out for pics from past contests.

Monkey See, Monkey Do:

So, now that you've seen all these fantastic creations, do you find yourself yearning to try a little sculpting out yourself, either in your trusty backyard sandbox, or that great big sandbox we like to call "the beach?" Well, do I have just the thing for ya... Here is a great resource for those who want to dig in and get building: Sand Castle Tips by Barbara J. Feldman. This kid-friendly site lists links to other (also kid-friendly) sites with lots of great information to help you build the sandcastle or sculpture idea that's rattling around in your now-inspired brain, no matter what your age or ablility. (Make sure to visit Sand Castle Central - a definite "must-surf-to" filled with lots of sand-castle-y wisdom.)

Virtual Voyeur:

And finally, if you just can't get enough sand sculpture pictures, here's a link to a Google images search for "sandcastle competitions" that brings up lots and lots of amazing sand masterpieces. Gaze and enjoy!

Saturday, August 8, 2009