Review: Max Builds a Time Machine

Max Builds a Time Machine (Torah Time Travel series)

by Carl Harris Shuman, illustrated by C.B. Decker

Apples & Honey Press (imprint of Behrman House), 2022

Category: Middle Grade
Reviewer: Sandy Wasserman

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Max is creative, though a bit odd, and attends Jewish school. He likes to putter and build and has many questions about the Bible and Jewish history. Needing answers to some questions he has about Bible stories, he builds a time machine in his room and sets off to find answers. He wonders: Do angels have wings? Do they actually eat real food? He does know quite a bit already about Abraham and Sarah and the custom of inviting guests into their tent and he does recognize the three angels and Sarah and Abraham when he arrives. With his cardboard time machine and using 'Miri,' [AKA: Siri] his mother's old partially working cell phone, he goes back 2000 years. Author Carl Shuman throws delightful humor into every page, into every character's comments. If you've ever wondered if time machines work, if Abraham and Sarah ate brisket, whether angels existed at all, why Max gets his feet bathed upon arrival, even if angels burp after a good meal- this modern midrash will fill you in. And Max isn't the only character. The reader meets one of Max's classmates, a new girl, Emma, who could use a friend. Max is not the life of the party either and so after he returns from biblical times in Canaan and his meeting with Abraham and Sarah, he makes an effort to befriend Emma, because he was the new kid on his time machine journey so he knows what it feels like.
The whimsical illustrations add much to the story. Combining just enough of what you might find in the sand 2000 years ago, like the tent and some camels, Sarah and Abraham are just like everyone else; they kid around, they understand what tickling means, and though they don't recognize Max's modern day light-up-sneakers, they do admire them. For any reader with the desire for a bit more of this midrash, the angels are Simcha [which translates to 'Joy,'], Chalomi [which translates to 'Dreamlike,'] and Ragzoni [which translates to 'irritable,'] and they are certainly in character with their comments. By the end of the story, and back at school, Max and Emma are friends, and so much so that Max invites her to his next time travel adventure to see if the Red Sea really does split! I bet every Jewish person who ever lived has wondered about that!

There are so very many Jewish references in this book: holidays, Shabbat, foods, Bible, Israel... the book is overflowing with milk and honey in all the right places. This is a masterful and fun read. Children (and adults too!) need more books like this.
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Reviewer Sandy Wasserman is a retired teacher of Gifted and Talented students, and taught for 35 years in both public schools and at a Solomon Schechter Day School. She's a wife, mother of two adult daughters, and grandmother to two fantastic 'first readers' of her manuscripts. Her published book, The Sun's Special Blessing [2009], was her first serendipitous and fun experience in the publishing world. She loves to read and swim, though not at the same time.


  1. This sounds like such a rollicking fun book. Thanks for the great review, Sandy.


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