________________ CM . . . . Volume XV Number 1 . . . . August 29, 2008

cover Time Twister: Journal #3 of a Cardboard Genius.

Frank Asch.
Toronto, ON: Kids Can Press, 2008.
144 pp., pbk. & hc., $6.95 (pbk.), $16.95 (hc.).
ISBN 978-1-55453-231-5 (pbk.),
ISBN 978-1-55453-230-8 (hc.).

Grades 2-4 / Ages 7-9.

Review by Anna Swanson.

*** /4


Fact #1: This is my third incredible journal. I write in it whenever I can steal a few minutes from my hyper-busy life to share my genius with the rest of the humdrum world. Consider yourself lucky to be reading it!

Fact #2: I’m probably the smartest human being on Earth. If you doubt that, just ask yourself what other scientist in the world today has single-handedly achieved the stupendous feat of constructing the world’s first intergalactic spaceship mostly out of ordinary cardboard.

Fact #3: I’m about to leave planet Earth and explore the universe in my spaceship, Star Jumper, with the girl who sits in front of me in study hall. Her name is Zoe and she’s really neat.

Fact #4: My little brother, Jonathan, is a rat-demon, psychopathic creep-slug of pure evil!

Fact #5: I’ve finally tamed that rotten little snake…


Alex, self-proclaimed super-genius and cardboard inventor extraordinaire, is back for another instalment in the “Journals of a Cardboard Genius” series by well-known children’s author and illustrator Frank Asch.

     Alex’s younger brother Jonathan is still as annoying as ever, but since the day Alex promised he could come along for some intergalactic travel aboard Star Jumper, Jonathan has been treating his older brother like royalty. If Jonathan knew the truth, maybe he wouldn’t be so sweet. Unfortunately, before Alex and co-pilot Zoe can escape to a faraway Jonathan-free planet, Zoe points out a small glitch… the theory of relativity. By the time the two co-pilots return from a brief intergalactic trip, everyone else on planet Earth will have aged over 50 years. Enter Alex’s new invention, the chrono-dymaxi-space/time-multiphaser, otherwise known as “the time-twister.” But when a malfunction threatens the very existence of the universe, Alex swears off the plan forever. The story takes a twist as kid-brother Jonathan demonstrates his own creative genius with an invention that allows the three kids to see the otherwise-invisible time-travellers all around them but also leads them to a near-disastrous encounter with the time police. At Zoe’s insistence, Alex reluctantly includes his younger brother in the intergalactic getaway.

     Once again, this is a light, fast-paced, humorous, playful chapter book with loads of action, sibling conflict, and pseudo-scientific jargon. It champions science and creativity, and its pace and quirky voice make for a perfect primary classroom read-aloud. The book cover emulates a cardboard and duct tape notebook, and the text is peppered with small child-like pencil diagrams of contraptions, theories, formulas and observations.

     Zoe’s constant disapproval of the way Alex treats his younger brother does give the book a slightly more moralistic tone than the first two books and threatens to distract from the plot at times, but the overall message is positive and the sibling rivalry remains believable. Anyone who has enjoyed the first two books, Star Jumper and Gravity Buster, will be captivated by this one as well. Frank Asch is clearly a pro and offers solid, polished, consistent writing that moves forward from the very first page.

     A subtle shift in the sibling interaction has been building over the three books, and this capacity for change brings the sibling thread to the forefront. It will be interesting to see where the next instalment takes us. Based on the suspenseful ending which leaves our three heroes floating in space above a promising planet – with one of them reduced to miniature and trapped inside a mayonnaise jar – I can only assume that another journal is in the works…


Anna Swanson works as a children's librarian in Vancouver, BC.

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