Written and Illustrated by Dan Santat
Little, Brown and Company, 2016
The car trip to visit Grandma is always exciting!
The plot in a nutshell: A road trip gets weird.
The story’s main character is on his way to his grandmother’s birthday party, but after just an hour on the road, he starts to get bored in the car. It starts to feel that they are going so slow that they are actually going backward in time. They pass cowboys and an old locomotive, angry pirates, jousting knights, the building of the Egyptian pyramids and end up in the time of the dinosaurs. He enjoys seeing the dinosaurs and now that he’s happy, it makes time speed up again, only now it goes too fast and they all wind up in the future. He falls asleep and when he wakes up, they’re at Grandma’s.
Author/illustrator Dan Santat takes on the age old question that accompanies pretty much every family road trip in this clever and imaginative story. At the point when the book starts going back in time, you actually have to turn the book upside down and turn the pages backwards (which feels bizarre). Once they start zooming forward, you turn the book right side up again. When they finally get to Grandma’s you see the boy wake up from a nap, implying that it’s all been a dream, but when he gets out of the car, you see a photograph that was taken of the whole group in the future, which will keep those curious minds guessing.
The illustrations were done with pencil, crayon, watercolor, ink, and Photoshop and his fans will notice a nod to his Caldecott Medal winning book, The Adventures of Beekle, in the form of a Beekle toy in the floorboard of the car. There are so many things to notice in the illustrations, such as the boy’s parents’ hilarious reactions to all the time changes. But my favorite is the robot in the future who speaks in QR codes. Of course, I scanned the codes and yes, you get to see exactly what he’s saying. Brilliant. This one is a lot of fun.
And what did we learn? What I take away from this book is that, with a good imagination, you can never be really bored.