6.09.2012

Oh No! Not Again! (Or How I built a Time Machine to Save History) (Or at Least my History Grade) written by Mac Barnett and illustrated by Dan Santat


OH NO! NOT AGAIN! (Or How I Built a Time Machine to Save History) (Or at Least My History Grade) is the sequel to Mac Barnett and Dan Santat's fantastic picture book, OH NO! (Or How My Science Project Destroyed the World. If you read the first book, then you know that Barnett is economical with his framework of words that carry the story while Santat is exuberant and extravagant with his illustrations. The same holds true for this book. When our protagonist misses one question on her history test by answering the question, "In what country to we find the oldest prehistoric cave painting?" with Belgium instead of France, she takes history into her own hands. 

With the help of some household electronics (a blender, the control panel of a stationary bicycle) and items such as a blue, plastic bunny wading pool (known as the "Phun Times" kiddie pool in the blueprints) a time machine is built. First she goes back too far, witnessing a fish-like creature crawling out of the mire and onto land, then not far enough, landing smack-dab in front of Napoleon on horseback. Finally, she reaches Belgium, 33,000 BCE and finds some neanderthals cooking outside of their cave. When the introduction of oil painting supplies does not go quite how she hoped it would, the protagonist hands over cans of spray paint. This does not improve the situation. The extreme misuse of a pencil horrifies her and forces her to paint the cave walls herself and results in one of my favorite illustrations in the book. Meanwhile... The seemingly clueless cave-dudes hop into the time machine and cause our hero to utter those familiar words, "OH NO. OH MAN." The trip through time results in a big, red "F" on the history test. Once again, Barnett and Santat's book has fantastic endpapers, this time the blueprints of the time machine -03. However, my favorite is the penultimate page that is a map of time travel supplied by, if the  infinity logo in the corner is to be believed, "The Loop: Time Transit Services." The transit lines, which range from sport to animal, currency, food and wonders, are color coded, hilarious and very fun to follow from start to finish. The currency time line begins with salt, morphs to peppercorns, cowrie shells and a tea brick, ending with the final currency known to man - the HUG. If you own a copy of OH NO! (Or How My Science Project Destroyed the World, then you will be happy to know that the dust jacket of OH NO! NOT AGAIN! also unfolds to reveal a movie poster on the flip side, as seen at the left!
As a interesting side note, Mac Barnett once worked at the Echo Park Time Travel Mart, holding many different positions from programs director to Board of Directors, so it is no surprise he has written a book with this timely theme. While this is a real store that sells merchandise related to time travel, The Echo Park Time Travel Mart is also part of 826 National, an amazing non-profit organization with centers in seven cities across America that is dedicated to providing drop-in tutoring, class field trips, writing workshops and in-school programs, all free of charge and all supported and run by volunteers. Started in 2002 by writer Dave Eggers and education specialist Ninive Calegeri, the organization's goal is to assist students ages six to eighteen with their writing skills, and to help teachers get their classes excited about writing. Their work is based on the understanding that great leaps in learning can happen with one-on-one attention, and that strong writing skills are fundamental to future success. For more information on the fantastic stores/tutoring centers around the states, check out this post from a couple of years ago.


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