Cover image for Big Papa and the time machine
Big Papa and the time machine
1st ed.
Physical Description:
1 volume (unpaged) : color illustrations ; 29 cm.
Reading Level:
Ages. 4-8.
Added Author:
Discover the true meaning of being brave in this tender and whimsical picture book from Daniel Bernstrom (One Day in the Eucalytus, Eucalyptus Tree) and Shane Evans (Chocolate Me!) that follows a grandfather and grandson who travel through time in a beloved 1952 Ford.


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A beautiful journey into African American history: Discover the true meaning of being brave in this tender and whimsical picture book from Daniel Bernstrom (One Day in the Eucalyptus, Eucalyptus Tree; Gator, Gator, Gator) and Shane Evans (Chocolate Me!) that follows a grandfather and grandson traveling through time and discovering their own African American history.

When a little boy is feeling afraid to go to school one day, his grandfather, Big Papa, takes him away in his time machine--a 1952 Ford--back to all of the times when he was scared of something life was handing him. "That's called being brave," Big Papa says over and over.

Full of heartfelt moments and thrilling magical realism, Big Papa and the Time Machine speaks to the African American experience in a touching dialogue between two family members from different generations and emerges as a voice that shares history and asks questions about one family's experience in 20th-century black America.

"Wasn't you scared?"

"Oh, I was scared," Big Papa said. "Sometimes you gotta walk with giants if you ever gonna know what you made of. That's called being brave."

Reviews 4

School Library Journal Review

K-Gr 3--Bernstrom's (One Day in the Eucalyptus, Eucalyptus Tree) latest book digs deep, with a story about a child facing fears by discovering a grandfather's difficult past. An unnamed, ungendered child is nervous about starting school, so they're taken for a ride with Big Papa in his old blue car. As they move through the grandfather's past, leaving the South in the 1950's as a young man and eventually becoming the caregiver of the child, it is revealed that Big Papa was never able to attend school. In the first-person narrative, written largely in dialogue that features African American Vernacular English, the child poses questions, and the knowing grandparent responds with sage, though not preachy, one-liners. "Sometimes you gotta walk with giants if you ever gonna find out what you made of." The big and bold mixed-media illustrations in Evans's signature style animate the story in a joyous way that uplifts the text. Big Papa is a bearded, brown-skinned man, wearing overalls and a bow tie, and the child resembles the character in Evans's Mixed Me. The notion of time-travel appears fluid; the events of the past occur outside of the car in muted colors. A powerful penultimate spread shows Big Papa's stoic face, a lone teardrop only visible through the rear view mirror. The underlying thread is an encouraging message of facing one's fear, and a constant presence of familial love. VERDICT A unique perspective in a beautifully executed book about starting school. A must-purchase.--Clara Hendricks, Cambridge Public Library, MA

Publisher's Weekly Review

Big Papa takes his grandchild back in time to see what bravery looks like in this tender story by Bernstrom (Gator, Gator, Gator!). School-shy, the baseball cap--wearing grandchild admits, "I'm scared I'll miss you." Big Papa's majestic vintage auto takes them into the past--Chicago and Little Rock, Ark., to moments in the 1940s--1980s. In 1952, they see a lady holding a young man "tighter than tight." "Big Papa? That you?" his grandchild says, "You left your mama!" "Yes," Big Papa says. He was afraid, "but sometimes you gotta lose the life you have if you ever gonna find the one you want." Evans (Hands Up!) draws Big Papa at the wheel, a large, reassuring presence, as his grandchild gazes out at the past. Wide angles give the spreads visual power, while soft pastels convey the journey's otherworldly atmosphere and the stories' intimacy. When the grandchild sees a grown man snatch a paper out of young Big Papa's hands in 1941--"See this cotton, and see that field?" the man tells young Big Papa. "Look at it. This is your school"--the grandchild understands why his grand- father thinks school is so important, and sees how it's possible to be simultaneously scared and brave. Ages 4--8. (Jan.)

Horn Book Review

As Big Papa drives his (unnamed) grandson to school, he learns that the child would rather not go because hes scared. The solution? Big Papas time machinevisually represented by a big-bodied classic carwhich gives the child insights into his grandfathers own life and fears. Big Papas stories take the two back to 1952, as he is leaving his Little Rock home to make his way in the world. To 1955, as he works the perilous job of brick mason on Chicago skyscrapers. To 1957, as he summons up the nerve to dance with the woman who will ultimately become the childs Nana. With each story he tells, his grandson asks about his fears (Was you scared?). In response, the older man dispenses down-home wisdom, empowering the youth with every word (Sometimes you gotta lose the life you have if you ever gonna find the one you want) and with the refrain Thats called being brave. When Big Papa relates his last two memories/fears, its up to his grandson to remind him about the definition of bravery. Bernstroms colloquial text captures the warm relationship between Big Papa and his grandson. Punctuated by brilliant yellows and blues, Evanss illustrations of swirling stars and outlined memories evoke the ethereal quality of the journey through time. Eboni Njoku January/February 2020 p.64(c) Copyright 2020. The Horn Book, Inc., a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Kirkus Review

An African American grandfather and grandson take a time-traveling journey through U.S. history in this mystical and heartwarming picture book.When his grandson announces that he does not want to go to school, Big Papa takes action. Sweeping him up in his time machine (which looks a lot like a 1950s-era automobile), the pair visit Little Rock and Chicago in the '40s through the '80s, the places where Big Papa grew to manhood. In recounting his struggles with dangerous jobs and working conditions and his trepidation at marriage and impending fatherhood, Big Papa gives his grandson a lesson in developing bravery while also teaching him the importance of getting an education. Love and reverence for history and family radiate from Bernstorm's words. Backmatter indicates that the story is inspired by the author's family, and he couldn't have penned a more moving testament to their dignity and endurance. Evans' whimsical, sunny-hued illustrations have a dreamlike quality that nicely maintains balance between the fantasy of time travel and the heaviness of some of the subject matter. This is particularly evident in the vignette set in the Arkansas cotton fields, where a fellow African American tells Big Papa to give up school because "work, that's all you ever gonna do."This beautiful celebration of the importance of family will also spur young readers to reflect on history. (Picture book. 4-8) Copyright Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.