Thursday, December 8, 2011

TJ and the Time Stumblers: AAAARGH!

AAAARGH! is the unusual title of book two in Bill Myers series, TJ and the Time Stumblers. Myers, author of the popular Eighties series, McGee and Me, still uses humor and creativity to teach character-building lessons.

TJ Finkelstein is having a hard time adjusting to life as a junior high student in Malibu, California. After her mother died, TJ, and her family move from small-town Missouri to Malibu. Life in Malibu is not at all the same, and to make matters worse, she is being shadowed by Herby and Tuna, two annoying, miniature boys from the future.

Herby and Tuna have come back in time to study TJ, since she is an important, historical figure in the 23rd century. However, they use faulty equipment, don't understand life in the 21st century, and generally make TJ's life more difficult. When pirates blast holes through TJ's bedroom walls, or get stuck in her locker at school, it is up to Herby and Tuna to reset time and fix the present. In the midst of many unusual events, TJ has an opportunity to cheat in her English class. She has no idea making one little wrong choice will lead to such dire consequences.

Unbeknownst to TJ, her cute neighbor, Chad, is faced with a similar dilemma. Even though he is a professional surfer, he may not win the next competition without the help of a mechanically enhanced surf board his friend made for him.

Herby and Tuna show TJ and Chad just how serious cheating can be. Plot Spoiler Ahead: Herby and Tuna provide powerful glimpses of a terrible future, and eventually, both TJ and Chad make the right choice.

What I Like: Although the topic is serious, Tuna and Herby's mischief leads to some hilarious mishaps for TJ. We used this as our family "read-aloud", and both my ten-year-old and seven-year-old laughed hysterically, more than once. My son (age seven) said he liked the glimpses of the future the best, and my daughter liked the "crazy zworkedness and torkedness." (Did I mention, Myers makes up words, writes words backwards, writes words up and down, and uses tons of sound effects?)

As a mom, I appreciate how clearly Myers shows long-term consequences of the choices we make. We see how choosing to do something you know is wrong can lead to poor character and a lifetime of regret.

What I Dislike: Even though my kids got a kick out of the sound effects and goofy use of text, I found it annoying to read, especially aloud.

Also, none of us liked the cliff-hanger ending. Although we know TJ is going to confess to cheating, we never see how her teacher handles her confession. We also don't know whether TJ and Chad actually become friends, and we don't see how TJ's rival, Elizabeth, handles knowing TJ won't write papers for her. I guess we will have to read book three!

Overall Rating: Very good

Age Appeal: 8 and up

Publisher Info: Tyndale; 2011; ISBN:978-1-4143-3454-7 ; Paperback, 188 pages, $6.99

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