Mar 23, 2012

Review - Chronal Engine by Greg Leitich Smith (+Giveaway)

Chronal Engine by Greg Leitich Smith
March 20, 2012 from Houghton Mifflin Harcourt

When Max, Kyle, and Emma are sent to live with their reclusive grandfather, they think he’s crazy, especially when he tells them about his time machine. But after Emma is kidnapped at the exact time that her grandfather predicted, Max and Kyle are forced to believe his eccentric stories—even the one about the Chronal Engine in the basement. Now, to save Emma, Max, Kyle, and their new friend Petra must pile into a VW Bug, and use the Chronal Engine to take the road trip of a lifetime—right back to the Cretaceous period. With dangers all around, the teens find themselves dodging car-crushing herbivores in addition to the terrifying T. rex. In this ancient environment, can three contemporary teens hunt down a kidnapper, forage for food, and survive long enough to return home?

After their grandfather predicts his own heart attack (you read that right) and their sister Emma is kidnapped and vanishes into thin air, Max, Kyle, and Petra ban together to rescue Emma. Full of jaw-dropping moments, car chases, and man eating giants all set in prehistoric Austin, Texas, this story is all about surviving. The characters are all smart in their own way, but Max is the brains and the dinosaur extraordinaire. That may come off as a little nerdy for an 8th grader, but he doesn't care. Turns out mom and dad were right, nerds do rule the world and Max is one of them! Max is curious and observant, and I love that he is more or less the hero in the story. His dino knowledge gets everyone out of hot water many times and without him, the rest of the group would not have lived in the wild for five minutes. As we make our way through the story, Max is teaching us about the prehistoric landscape, its inhabitants and how to survive. Max (and Greg) make learning about dinosaurs fun and totally interesting to any novice.

This story reminds me of a much more sophisticated (and educational) Magic Tree House book. You know the one I'm referring to, book #1 - Dinosaurs Before Dark. I can't tell you how many times that book has been circulated and read by both boys and girls alike in libraries and classrooms across the world. Chronal Engine is a fantastic book for those Jack and Annie fans that have moved up to middle school and beyond. The chapters are short, ranging from 5-8 pages, and usually break during a heightened moment making it a great read-aloud. The illustrations, from Blake Henry, are spot on and this girl appreciates the visuals to go along with creatures I have never heard or seen before. I never knew a Deinosuchus looked like a hammerhead shark with four legs! This story could easily be adapted into a full graphic novel. Even better, have students/kids create their own story and incorporate their favorite creature - extinct or fictional.

Chronal Engine is a fast paced, middle grade adventure perfect for boys and girls that love history, dinosaurs, and time travel.

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You can find Leitich Smith at his website
Chronal Engine is having a super awesome book release party right here in Austin, TX on 3/24! Join us!

Thanks to Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, there is a copy up for grabs to one lucky US winner! Fill out the official doo-hickey to be officially entered.

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