Jukebox, by Nidhi Chanani

Hearing a particular song can evoke so many emotions and memories. We may say a particular song really “takes us back”. In this book, songs literally take people zooming back through time to the year the song was released! Jukebox (by Nidhi Chanani, 2021) is a graphic novel that has a jukebox as the time travel portal, East Asian characters, exuberant illustrations, and a fun story. I’ve reviewed so many kids’ time travel books, but I’ve never read one in which the portal was a jukebox. I don’t even recall a story that had songs as portals. Because songs can be so evocative, it’s hard to believe it hasn’t been done a bunch of times before!

Summary from Goodreads:

Grab some coins for the jukebox, and get ready for a colorful, time-traveling musical tale about family and courage.
A mysterious jukebox, old vinyl records, and cryptic notes on music history, are Shaheen’s only clues to her father’s abrupt disappearance. She looks to her cousin, Tannaz, who seems just as perplexed, before they both turn to the jukebox which starts…glowing?

Suddenly, the girls are pulled from their era and transported to another time! Keyed to the music on the record, the jukebox sends them through decade after decade of music history, from political marches, to landmark concerts. But can they find Shaheen’s dad before the music stops? This time-bending magical mystery tour invites readers to take the ride of their lives for a coming-of-age adventure.

I took a several-years break from reviewing time travel books, and looking at the landscape of kids’ time travel books recently, I note the trends of more graphic novels and more non-white characters. This book combines these positive trends. Usually in kids’ time travel stories if there is a pair of travelers they are siblings or friends, so the fact that this pair were cousins was refreshing. Sharing a network of family ties, but lacking sibling rivalry, cousins can enjoy a unique relationship. Twelve-year-old Shaheen and her fourteen-year-old cousin Tannaz had such a sweet friendship! And for a graphic novel, I found the characters to be surprisingly well-developed. They had distinct personalities, and both were grappling with realistic issues within their immediate families.

It’s great how the author pays homage to several important musicians, including Bessie Smith, James Brown, Marvin Gaye, and Grandmaster Flash. For each of these musicians there is a page that features a drawing of the cover art of the album, in a collage with other items that I assume are from the same time period. These were cool. I loved all the song trivia. A vinyl-loving friend had just told me the story about James Brown that was referenced in the book so that particularly resonated. If I have a complaint with the book it is that it perhaps tried to address too many different issues. And there was an unexpected plot twist at the end of the book that I found a bit jarring. I would have preferred a slightly simplified story without the twist, that included more details about the music.

Man, were jukeboxes fun! Putting in the coins for your favorite song, waiting and wondering how many songs were in the queue before your pick, discovering what other people in the bar or restaurant chose… Nowadays, when a kid can have their own phone and endless playlists, paying to hear a particular song probably would not hold much appeal for them. However, this book has motivated me to try to go to a diner with a jukebox, either the big kind or the little ones that sit on the tables sometime soon. Who knows how long it will be before they disappear from the face of the earth!

For more new book reviews, check out blogger Greg Pattridges’s list of other kids’ book reviews published today!

About Susan

I blog about middle grade and YA time travel books. I'm the author of Time Jump Coins. Email me at timetravelmagic (at) yahoo (dot) com.
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11 Responses to Jukebox, by Nidhi Chanani

  1. I inherited an old jukebox from my grandmother but it never worked despite numerous repair attempts. This story sounds like it does work for the most part. I like the characters and have added the book to my future read list. Welcome back to MMGM!

    • Susan says:

      Wow, not many people can say they have their own jukebox! What a shame it didn’t work despite your efforts! Thanks, I’m happy to be back. I am so impressed at the longevity of you and your fellow MMGM-ers in sharing book reviews!

  2. More writers need to use music as part of magic. I love songs being used as a time travel device! And I love the idea of trips through musical history. I’m not sure the art appeals to me, but I’ll definitely look for this graphic novel.

    • Susan says:

      I love the ide of trips through musical history, too. I often don’t like the art in graphic novels, but I did find the drawings of the girls’ expressions to be very cute!

  3. Welcome back Susan. This graphic novel about a jukebox sounds very compelling. Like how they use music as portals. I’ll be looking for this one. Thanks for sharing!

  4. Nice to see you back at it. This sounds like a really fun idea for a time travel book. I don’t read a lot of graphic novels, but this sounds pretty tempting. Maybe I will check it out. Thanks for telling me about it.

  5. Completely Full Bookshelf says:

    It’s great to have you back on MMGM! (I say that having taken the week off from MMGM, but I’ve been around, I promise!) I actually reviewed Jukebox just a few weeks ago, and I had very similar thoughts—it’s a lot of fun! Shaheen and Tannaz were definitely very well-developed, and the travels through history (and music history) were fascinating. I agree, the ending and the twist (I’m blanking on how it was a twist for some reason, but I do remember a substantial change in the storyline) were a little unwieldy, but overall, the book is great!

    Also, one quick thought: I am a huge lover of graphic novels, and there is a fantastic, award-winning graphic novel called Displacement by Kiku Hughes that is a sort of time-travel book as well—it’s not so fun (it’s about time-traveling back to the Japanese internment, so…), but it’s incredibly well-written and awesome and not completely soul-crushing either! So it might be of interest to you. Thanks so much for the great post!

  6. Susan says:

    Thanks for the welcome. I’m glad we had similar thoughts on Jukebox–that lets me know I wasn’t way off in my assessment! I will look for your review. I do not have much experience with graphic novels at all, so I appreciate any recommendations, especially re ones related to time travel. I am ordering it now!

  7. Pingback: This week’s round-up of middle grade sci fi and fantasy from around the blogs (9/5/21) – Book Library

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