World's Worst Time Machine #1

World's Worst Time Machine #1
Age Range
Release Date
April 25, 2023
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Liam Chapman cannot believe his good fortune. He just bought a real, working time machine at a garage sale for $3. Sure, it’s labeled “World’s Worst Time Machine,” but how bad could it be?
The time machine, as it turns out, is so much worse than Liam could have imagined. First, it summons Thomas Edison, but not that Thomas Edison. This Thomas Edison is a 10-year-old aspiring gangster from 1933 who demands to be called “Tommy Twinkles” and is also very interested in robbing a bank of the future. Liam could use some help from his parents here, but unfortunately, the time machine has kidnapped them both.
To set things right, Liam and his friend Elsa must embark on an adventure full of sci-fi gadgets, real-life gangsters, and a whole lot of Cheetos.

Editor review

1 review
Correcting past mistakes
Overall rating
Writing Style
Illustrations/Photos (if applicable)
What worked:
The author includes zaniness and humor to entertain readers. The time machine is found in a garage sale with a sign that clearly says “World’s Worst Time Machine”. It’s made of wires, typewriter keys, a rotary telephone, and a lantern of orange goo all stuffed into a cardboard box. Surprisingly, the author doesn’t try to create a fancy, complicated explanation for how time travel works. Liam accidentally transports a child-wannabe gangster from 1933 who just wants to rob a modern bank. Cheetos play a big role in handling these kinds of predicaments but it requires a whole bunch of Cheetos. The story also includes expected comedic situations that develop when characters from the past discover new inventions from their futures.
Elsa is Liam’s best friend but she’s more important than he knows. He probably should listen to her when she suggests he read books and instruction manuals as she’s miffed when her ideas are ignored. She’s frantic when she realizes Liam might accidentally activate the time machine but she arrives too late to stop him. However, she somehow knows exactly what’s happened and knows how to handle the problem. That doesn’t mean the solution is easily executed since the presence of characters from the past creates complications. Elsa carries a chaos meter clock with her that keeps track of the amount of chaos caused by the misplaced characters. Readers know Elsa can make things right unless the meter reaches twelve o’clock and the story reminds them whenever the hands on the clock advance.
The average length of each chapter is around seven or eight pages so the plot moves quickly. This format also makes it easy to find stopping points for young readers who don’t want to read a bunch of pages at one time. Many chapters are enhanced by black and white drawings depicting key moments in the plot. The pictures of gangsters are very helpful when trying to visualize Creepy Karpis and his thugs. The end pages share “after-credit scenes”, like in superhero movies, that describe the lives and demises of characters from past history. Several of them actually existed.
What didn’t work as well:
The swift-moving plot doesn’t allow much room to fully develop characters so some readers might want to learn more about the relationship between Liam and Elsa. They’re neighbors and close friends but it would be helpful to have additional descriptions of what they’re thinking and feeling.
The Final Verdict:
Time travel is always an entertaining topic in middle-grade novels and this book doesn’t get bogged down with the science and how it’s actually accomplished. Overall, this is a fun, humorous quick-read that should appeal to a wide range of young readers and I recommend you give it a shot.
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