In Review: Time Shifters

An impressive adventure story with everything a good tale needs: monsters, insect people, ghosts, time travel, and heart.

Time Shifters by Chris Grine

Published by Scholastic on May 30, 2017. Hardcover of 272 pages at $24.99. Softcover also available with same pages at $12.99. Intended for ages 8 – 12, grades 3 – 7.

Note: I read an advanced copy so anything may have changed by publication.

The cover: Luke holds his right arm up to reveal the scientific device that sets him on a path to adventure. Going clockwise from him is the Mummy, Vampire Napoleon, a spider person, Astronaut Skeleton, Abraham Lincoln, a grub’s father, Doc, and the ghostly Artemis. These heroes and villains, illustrated by Chris Grine, on a cover designed by Phil Falco, play key roles in Luke’s wild ride through alternate dimensions. This is a movie poster quality image that captures all the characters’ personalities and has bright eye-catching colors. Tilting both words in the title gives it a speedy look that’s also sure to grab potential readers. Overall grade: A+

The premise: From the inside front cover, “When Luke investigates an eerie blue glow in the woods behind his house, he doesn’t know what he’ll stumble upon. But a scientist, Abraham Lincoln riding a friendly dinosaur, and a sassy ghost were the last things he could have imagined. Now as Luke and his new companions are pursued by a bickering trio of bumbling henchmen after the strange device locked to Luke’s arm, he’s forced on a crazy, headlong adventure in a parallel dimension! Will he find his courage in time to save the day and get home or will he be trapped in a weird alternate reality forever?” I like the strange combination of characters, the mystery of the device, and running around in parallel dimensions. Reading this summary after looking at the cover, I’m looking forward to reading this. Overall grade: A-

The characters: Luke’s entrance into the book is a heartbreaker. He’s a preteen who has something tragic happen to his family. He’s brought into this adventure through coincidence and it’s exactly what he needs to bring him out of his depression. He’s funny, caring, and true to his new friends. He’s a good lead character. Doc is focused on getting the device off of Luke and keeping it out of the clutches of the Master. He’s got a backstory that’s teased and he’s got an issue with fellow traveler Artemis. She’s a ghost and is always startling others. Luke sees there’s more to her than scaring people and he has his closest relationship with her. Abraham Lincoln is a robot, long story, but his strength comes in handy in several situations. Zinc is a dinosaur with a bird beak, as dinos were more closely related to birds on the world he was rescued from. He’s like an Allosaurus, crossed with a puppy. A holographic projector is used to disguise the beastie when around locals, leading to some hilarious visuals. The leader of the trio of henchmen is Astronaut Skeleton, which is a skeleton in an astronaut suit. He’s mean, but horribly afraid of the Master. The Mummy is a big oaf of a thug whose size is his most fearsome trait. The final member of this group has the best name ever for a character: Vampire Napoleon. He’s not the brightest bulb in the box and is constantly getting fried by sunlight. He always made me laugh with his antics. The Master is briefly seen, looking very much like a classic villain that hails from the planet Mongo, serving only to hurry his men to locate the device. There are also human antagonists and insect world denizens, both providing plenty of thrills and laughs. All the characters in this story by Chris Grine are fun to follow. Overall grade: A

The art: Chris Grine the artist has got plenty of talent. His character work is stellar. Luke is a warm character right from the start, with his terrific hair that echoes that of Herge’s famous creation. The sequence between him and his brother Kyle in the opening captures the love between the characters beautifully. Pages 16 and 17 convey a tragedy so real, even those who can’t read the dialogue will be able to understand what’s transpired. The trio of villains are amazing looking, with Vampire Napoleon being my favorite of the book. He’s like a combination of Yosemite Sam and Dracula, via Napoleon’s dresser. I love everything about him. The Astronaut Skeleton is creepy looking, but when faced with giving bad news to the Master, his fretful nature comes to light. The heroes are also exceptional, with Doc being a great looking character, with a huge head and huge mustache, and tiny legs. Robot Abraham Lincoln is also a joy, whose nobility comes across in every panel he’s in. Artemis is the most normal looking of all the characters, though she can alter the way she looks because she’s dead. When she and Luke have serious conversations, the honesty she exudes is wonderful. Zinc needs to be an action figure or doll. He can be frightening, but only to those who cross him or his friends. When he’s in disguise he’s a scene stealer. The insects of the alternate Earth begin as scary creatures but became as normal as any human, though they have several eyes and arms; the Gabby Hayes individual that appears on Page 145 cracked me up. The settings are also well done, with them being that of everyday Earth, to those of another dimension. There’s no credit for colorist on this issue, so I’m assuming that Grine is coloring his own work. The coloring is gorgeous. The visuals are greatly enhanced by the colors, with those of the other dimension and those used when the characters shift through time being extremely striking. Overall grade: A+  

The final line: An impressive adventure story with everything a good tale needs: monsters, insect people, ghosts, time travel, and heart. Perfect summer reading! Overall grade: A

To purchase a print or digital copy of this book go to https://www.amazon.com/Time-Shifters-Chris-Grine/dp/0545926599/ref=sr_1_1_twi_har_3?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1496094908&sr=1-1&keywords=time+shifters+chris+grine

Patrick Hayes was a contributor to the Comic Buyer’s Guide for several years with “It’s Bound to Happen!” and he’s reviewed comics for TrekWeb and TrekCore. He’s taught 8th graders English for 20 years and has taught high school English for five years and counting. He reads everything as often as he can, when not grading papers or looking up Star Trek, Star Wars, or Indiana Jones items online.

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