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The Time Museum
by Matthew Loux
First Second, $14.99, 256pp
Published: February 2017

'The Time Museum' is one of those fun but silly books where the fun often grows out of the silly. If you've ever seen the TV show 'The Librarians', you'll know what I mean. Who wouldn't want to work for a secret Library roaming the world through magic doors and retrieving artefacts of power before the evil minions of whomever happens to be the arch-villain this season get their grubby hands on them? The fact that plot holes and plot conveniences abound in every single episode almost adds to its ridiculous charm.

Well, this is just like that. Delia Bean, school uber-nerd, goes to visit her Uncle Lyndon and stumbles upon the Earth Time Museum, the world's largest history museum. 'Uncle' Lyndon actually founded this place in the year 5079 and stocked it from his many travels through time. Of course, it has everything that you can imagine, from both our past and future, including the Library of the World, 'the greatest collection of information and literature the world has ever known.' However, it also somehow includes a clientele and nobody ever really asks the big elephant in the room question, namely how an inherently secret museum can attract customers. Where and when does it advertise? And don't get me started on its gift shop!

Anyway, Uncle Lyndon is letting Delia know about the museum so that she can apply to be one of its next batch of interns. She'll be up against her new best friend, Michiko Oda, born in Tokyo two hundred years later, and a bunch of others from across time like Titus Valerius Marianus from ancient Rome and Dex, a Neanderthal, not to mention Greer Wedderburn, a Scots bitch with flamboyant hair, and Reggie Palmer, a 51st century Canadian boy genius. The six of them will be sent on three missions through time to duke it out for an intern slot and, of course, each of those missions goes horribly wrong in an action-packed but funny way, only for the day to be saved in the nick of time.

This is all complete lunacy and it's the easiest thing in the world to poke holes in the logic. My favourite is when these half dozen kids are sent back to the Library of Alexandria to find the most secret scroll of them all. Their handler, Sir Walter Dixon, a mediaeval English knight, goes with them, hiding his regular outfit of a suit of armour by draping a toga over the top. It's a stupid idea but it's a good joke and that's the spirit that this book works in.

That's why the head librarian at the Earth Time Museum is an android with a full army of robot retrieval cats. What's not to love? Who handles the bending of time to send museum employees back and forward? Why, Gregory the Great, a gigantic talking brain who makes zucchini bread. What's not to love? When our pint-sized heroes are sent into the Cretaceous period and encounter not one but three T Rexes, why do they have fantastically coloured manes like they're in eighties hair metal bands? Who cares? It looks amazing and they're here and gone quick enough for us to zoom off to the next setpiece.

Matthew Loux may not care about historical accuracy or internal consistency, but he knows exactly how to have fun while still throwing his audience through time as much as his characters. If I was still ten years old, this would have been a strong candidate for my favourite book of all time (which was really 'The Last of the Really Great Whangdoodles' by Julie Edwards, the children's novel that taught me what DNA stood for). It's an engaging romp, with a cast of characters who are easy to care about, who meet in a fantastic location and are then sent to three others, each of which every inquisitive kid would want to visit. And it scoots along at a rate of knots, leaving us precious little time to breathe.

In fact, it isn't just the story that scoots along, the art of Matthew Loux aids that, magnificently. He draws relatively simply but in a dynamic style that's full of motion. Each frame feels alive and almost pressures us to skip on to the next one and turn the page and see what's about to happen next. I dare anyone to try to read this slowly. The cover is a great example of this: there's a real sense of urgency to it that grabs us hard and won't let go.

'The Time Museum' is clearly a book for children, especially those with their sense of wonder intact and who haven't yet been distracted away from the things they enjoy by someone telling them that they're not cool. The early pages with Delia Bean in school will engage kids who have started to suffer from that sort of attention but haven't given in yet. Those who have succumbed won't get as much out of it, though I'd love to see it try to convert them back!

Adults, of course, will see through its lunacy much easier but, if they still have that inquisitive child camping out inside their brain, they're going to get a real kick out of it too. And yes, it'll make you want to seek out the Earth Time Museum and ask if they're hiring. I'll be in line right in front of you. Don't forget to say hi. ~~ Hal C F Astell

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