I don’t know if reviewing two time travel books with a common theme in each post, rather than just one story adds any value to my blog. At least I amuse myself. When I found out there were two books about time travel and the baseball card of Honus Wagner, I had to make it a theme. After all, I have to come up with two themes a month. (Ideas, anyone?)
Honus and Me, Dan Gutman, (1997, 140 pages) is the first time travel novel I’ve read that incorporates actual photographs, in this case of legendary baseball player Honus Wagner. It was great to see what a main character in a story actually looked like. Gutman has a whole series of time travel books in which the time travel magic starts with a baseball card including, Babe and Me, Jackie and Me, Shoeless Joe and Me, Mickey and Me, Jackie and Me, Roberto and Me, and the latest, Ted and Me. If you know a reluctant reader who is a baseball fan, this series could be a great recommendation. The books have different characters so they can be enjoyed singly.
In Honus and Me, twelve-year-old Joe Stoshack takes a job cleaning out his neighbor’s attic to earn a few bucks. His neighbor, old lady Amanda Young, tells him to put all the boxes on the curb for the trash collector. As Joe is moving a stack of papers, a Honus Wagner baseball card flutters to the ground. Joe can hardly believe his eyes. He knows it’s the most valuable baseball card in the world, worth thousands of dollars. So much dough could change the life of his family forever. But it really belongs to Miss Young. Would giving it to her be the right thing to do? He decides to pocket the card and think about the decision for awhile.
In the coming days as he is mulling over his decision, Honus Wagner show up in the flesh in Joe’s time. He’s a very down-to-earth, funny guy. Then, Joe gets to go back to Honus’ time. Only he doesn’t look like Joe anymore because he has woken up in a man’s body, looking like Honus’ brother, Albert “Butts” Wagner who was also an actual ball player. It’s the day of the 1909 World Series. After Honus hurts his hand during the game he secretly swaps uniforms with Joe/Butts and Joe (you have to suspend disbelief a little here) gets to stand in for Honus and step up to bat!
I’m not a baseball fan, but I found this book to be a fun, quick read. I did skim over some of the baseball parts. The photos added a great dimension to the tale. Honus was a likeable guy who shared some good life lessons with Joe. I liked the aspect of the plot dealing with Joe’s moral dilemma about what he should do with the card.
Dan Gutman is an incredibly prolific and successful author. Hard to believe it wasn’t always so. From his website, here are some rejection letters he received when he first tried to get Honus and Me published. They make for fascinating reading, and are inspiring to all of us would-be authors! He also has an awesome Facebook page: http://www.facebook.com/pages/Dan-Gutman/60020139122?ref=ts.
The Baseball Card Kid, Adam Osterweil, (2009, 200 pages) features the same main characters as the Comic Book Kid, another time travel book by the same author. I don’t know if The Baseball Card Kid is considered the second in the series, but it can definitely stand alone. In this story, friends Paul and Brian do not actually meet Honus Wagner, but they go though A LOT of trouble trying to obtain one of the valuable cards of his mug.
I liked the first half of the book better than the latter half. In the first half, the boys go back to the Titanic, to try to snatch a card from a distant relative that they were told went down with the ship. (I just realized yesterday that, duh, since this year marks the 100 year anniversary of the Titanic’s ill-fated voyage I should definitely do a post with a Titanic theme. Yet now I’ve used up this book. I know of one other time travel tale about the Titanic; perhaps I can dig up a third.) Paul and Brian originally plan to just steal the card from their relative, a boy about their age named Sean, but their conscience gets the better of them and they take on the slightly more ambitious task of trying to keep the Titanic from sinking. Then Paul and Brain return to their present time.
Fans of the time travel genre know you can’t just go back into the past and change something as big as the sinking of the Titanic without repercussions due to the butterfly effect. Big repercussions. Like, Paul and Brian have basically ruined earth. In the second half of the book the pair try to undue the damage they have done. They zoom into the future and travel between planets and years on a computerized surfboard. The action is non-stop and includes encounters with Lord Anddo, ruler of Earth 2 in the year 100,000; vampires; and a magic Answer Box. This part of the book is more science fiction-like. I prefer harder-to-believe parts of plots in smaller doses which is why I didn’t like this half of the book as much. However, there are a lot of hilarious lines with humor like that of author Jon Scieszka. I think this novel would be another great one for reluctant readers who want a funny book that’s never boring.