Jacob Wonderbar and the Interstellar Time Warp, by Nathan Bransford (Dial, upper elementary, February, 2013) --upper elementary time and space travel shenanigans of wackiness!
(That's me trying working on my catchy first lines, which is, I think, more important now that Google Reader has gone away sniff sniff)
In any event, Jacob Wonderbar travelled off into space with his friends in his first two books (J. W. and the Cosmic Space Kapow, and J.W. for President of the Universe), and now is back in a third round of wacky adventures that take him through time. Turns out that the space overlords, the Astrals, have a small number of keys that allow them to travel through time...and Mick Craken, their president, wants Jacob and his friends Sarah and Dexter to do just that. Jacob's missing father must be found in order for time to be stable again and for the existence of the Astrals protected from those who wanted to stop them from every travelling from earth into space in the first place.
So Jacob and co. use one of the keys to go off on a series of excursions back into time--visiting dinosaurs, "cave men," Napoleon, etc.--and each journey adds distracting layers of change to the present, and layers of difficulty to the tasks at hand of finding Jacob's dad and saving the Astrals.
It's a fun next book for readers who enjoyed the Magic Treehouse books, say, and who are ready for a more complex, non-linear narrative, generously laced with slapsticky humor, that will keep them on their toes. I was very much on my own toes, trying to keep track of who was who in what present--people are meeting their older selves, futures and pasts shift, and some of the time travel episodes seem at first to be simple vignettes with little point. But it actually does coalesce into at least a semblance of coherence, given continuity by Jacob's quest for his missing dad, and the bonds of friendship between Jacob, Sarah, and Dexter. And I think Nathan Bransford is wise not to tackle the complicated paradoxes of the time travel directly--skating over the surface keeps things light and fun.
In short, the young reader (I'd give this to third and fourth graders who are confidence readers) with a tolerance for craziness will enjoy it, but those who want things to make sense in a linear way might struggle...
For those looking for diversity in their reading--Jacob is from a multiracial family, and here's how he's described on page 22 of the first book:
"He stared at his hands, a soft brown color that was lighter than his
mom's dark skin and darker than his dad's light skin. It was proof that
he was half of his mom and half of his dad, but since he didn't look
like either of them, it also made him something else entirely."
I didn't notice any physical descriptors in this book, but here's an illustration from it that clearly shows his family as described above:
Jacob's a smidge darker of skin than his friends on the cover, but not quite enough so to make it easy to tell he's multiracial.