Book Review: The Time Portal by Benjamin Kuttner

Posted January 10, 2020 by Kathy Davie in Book Reviews / 2 Comments

Book Review: The Time Portal by Benjamin Kuttner

I received this book for free from my own shelves in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

The Time Portal by Benjamin Kuttner
Genres: Science Fiction, Time Travel
Published by Author on December 19, 2018
Pages: 189
Format: eBook
Source: my own shelves

Buy on Amazon
Illustrator: Ruthie Child

First in the Dave’s Timely Adventures time-traveling science fiction series for middle-grade readers and revolving around a boy who was in an accident two years ago.

My Take

I liked the concept of Kuttner’s story, but there were a number of issues I had with it. For one, Kuttner makes the Rounds sound very poor, and yet Mr Round never seems to go to work and Mrs Round is off to get haircuts and manicures on a regular basis. And if the mortgage is so high on this “new” house, why is it in such lousy shape?

Then Kuttner claims that the Rounds moved to a new neighborhood, but it sounds like his school is still the same. When the junkyard lady gives Dave that box, she doesn’t give him time to figure out how to open it. Rats? In an oven? What’s with the argument between Dave’s parents? Kuttner doesn’t go anywhere with this. What’s with the permission thing for Carl? Dave’s mom is supposed to write a letter to the orphanage giving Carl permission to come to dinner?? I’m confused…wouldn’t it be more realistic if Dave’s mom “invited” Carl to dinner? If Dave was seven when he was recovering from his accident, and he’s ten now, how can it only be two years since the accident? There’s a day when Jim is not there to teach in the classroom…and their normal teacher shows up to teach?? How is it that Cheeseworth is able to come back to work for one day? I would like to know why it was necessary for the Watch and Illusograph to be delivered in such a roundabout way.

So on a more positive note, Kuttner’s approach is perfectly aimed at the younger end of his middle-grade readers, using a lot of tell and not much show with the story told through third person protagonist point-of-view from Dave’s perspective, including his crazy encounters with the spoiled young Isaac and the absorbed Franklin.

I’m thinking the action is character-driven — between the good guys trying to save the day and the bad guys trying to change it.

Mr Goldstein uses a lot of Hebrew words, making The Time Portal even more educational for the kids when you add in the school “lectures” about Isaac Newton’s, Benjamin Franklin’s, and Archimedes’ discoveries that changed the future.

I loved Kuttner’s description of what Dave had to do to transform himself into the different animals. Very well done. And another great teaching moment.

Those cyborgs are some crazy characters with their hippie perspectives. As for their “contract” disputes with Goldstein, lol, oy vey.

Oooh, ouch. Dave makes use of the Whisperers to eavesdrop on Nikki’s conversation with her friends. Good thing his parents are compassionate.

I do like the idea that creativity is power. And remember, it’s never too late to change the past.

The Story

It’s two years since Dave’s accident, and his parents are concerned about his getting out and back into society. So when they receive that offer from Uncle Benyamin offering Dave a part-time job at his bookstore, they leap on it.

If only Mr and Mrs Round knew what Dave would be getting into, for, with Benyamin’s help, Dave learns that the Ayin Horeh is trying to change the past, and the task of the Guardians of Time is to make sure the past doesn’t change.

I don’t think this is what the Rounds had in mind…

The Characters

Ten-year-old Dave Round lives with his parents (his dad, John, is a salesman) in their new, very shabby house on Dickens Street. Honey is Dave’s dog.

Benyamin Goldstein is a distant uncle of Mrs Round’s, and he owns Goldstein Books. Romus transforms himself into a huge golden bullmastiff. Haze and Fuse are cyborgs, the keepers of the Time Portal. Jim Lightening Eyes is called this because he was struck by lightning at a young age…so why he’s called Lightening is very confusing. Jim becomes a substitute teacher at Dave’s school. Leon is an odd creature who tends the wardrobe for time travelers under Goldstein Books. He’s quite the colorful character. Rhoda transforms herself into a cat. Condor is a member of Goldstein’s cell.

Dave’s school
Mr Skyland is the headmaster. Mr Liteye will be the substitute teacher for Dave’s class; Mr Cheeseworth is their regular teacher. Students in the class include Nikki, on whom Dave has a secret crush; Jason, who is a jerk; and, Sally Turner, who is one of Nikki’s friends.

Angela will be Dave’s babysitter; she’s a new neighbor whose brother plays his car radio way too loud. Anne is the Rounds’ next-door neighbor.

Darkmores Orphanage is…
…just up the street from Dave’s house. A creepy groundskeeper. The orphans include Zane, who is a bully. Carl Sandberg is the miserable boy Dave meets. Carl’s Auntie Carra is his wicked legal guardian. There are mean prefects at the orphanage who keep order and hand out fatigues (punishment jobs); Steinglower is the meanest of them. Miss Pitt is the mean, hunchbacked matron.

Ayin Horeh is a demon, an evil eye that hops from body to body. There are three types who work for it: the Vory act as its servants; the Fixers clean up mistakes; and, the Dark Children, who are a cell of former time-travelers.

The Borstal Brothers have a hauling business. As Fixers for Ayin Horeh, they have unusual skills with bending time. The Dark Children are Heron, Arax, and Bleach.

Raven is the weird lady in the basement.

Isaac Newton discovered gravity. Benjamin Franklin proved electricity; his wife is Deborah. The Wentworth General Store carries spools of silk string. Archimedes discovered how to measure volume.

The Illusograph attaches to your head and allows you to shapeshift. The Whisperers are blue ladybugs that fit into your ears and translate the speech of others as well as act like an encyclopedia. There’s an artificial frog, I think Goldstein called it Ahem, that, when swallowed, allows you to speak in different languages. The Createograph measures one’s creativity. Branding is an imprint burned onto a person’s mind to control them. Ripples are changes in time that could wipe out the human race. Only young people, thirteen and younger, can be Guardians of Time and go through the Time Portal. After their coming of age, they are ex-time-travelers who still work for the Time Protection Agency founded by Ernest Albert.

The Cover and Title

The cover is split between the dark blue background of space with its stars and pitted planet on the right and the black of Dave’s house, his bedroom window faintly lit, on the left. A cartoon image shows Dave staring in astonishment at his special Comlink and Internet Watch on his wrist, that arm extended in front of him and crossing his chest. At the top is the series information in a wriggly font in white. Below that in a much smaller size is the title in a light royal blue, resting above Dave’s brown hair. The author and illustrator information is in white at the bottom, below Dave’s arm.

The title introduces the reader and Dave to The Time Portal in this battle to keep the future intact.

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2 responses to “Book Review: The Time Portal by Benjamin Kuttner

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