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The Picture Book Buzz

The Time Machine - Perfect Picture Book Friday #PPBF

Time machines are fascinating. They appear in books - Magic Treehouse - movies - Back to the Future - and TV shows Timeless - and often they are used to go back in time to fix things. So I was excited to discover a picture book with a time machine. One built to take a young girl back to last Thursday, so she could undo a mistake.

Book cover two hands clasped in front of a time machine.

The Time Machine (because it's never too late to apologize)

Author: Pauline David-Sax

Illustrator: Melquea Smith

Publisher: Cardinal Rule Press (2023)

Ages: 5-7



Friendship, mistakes, forgiveness, apologies, and time machines.


When apologizing to her best friend proves too difficult, Bailey feels her only hope lies in building a time machine to return to the day she said something mean.

Bailey's building a time machine... not to visit ancient Egypt or King Arthur's court, but to take her to last Thursday. That’s the day she said the Thing that made her best friend so mad. But when it's complete, Bailey discovers the only thing harder than building a time machine is having the courage to revisit a moment you regret.

Opening Lines:

Bailey was building a time machine.

Not to visit the dinosaurs.

Or to meet the knights of King Arthur’s court.

Ancient Egypt wasn’t on her list, either.

In all of history, there was just one time she

wanted to go back to: last Thursday.

Last Thursday was the day she said THE THING.

What I LOVED about this book:

What an intriguing beginning. I appreciate the open-endedness of the problem - THE THING. It could be absolutely anything and thereby makes the book personal to each reader. Because everyone, at some point in their lives, has said something they wish they could unsay.

Owning up to a mistake is hard, for everyone. Pauline David-Sax and Melquea Smith poignantly capture Nia's hurt feelings, Bailey's reticence (inability?) to say "sorry," and the uncomfortable situation which results.

Internal spread - one girl hurting another's feelings. The second girl flees in tears and then angrily strides past her the next day.

Text © Pauline David-Sax, 2023. Image © Melquea Smith, 2023.

After a couple of bungled attempts to demonstrate she's sorry, Bailey wishes she could go back in time and never say THE THING. My writer heart swelled when she headed straight to the library to research time travel. And I loved the title "My First Time Machine."

Internal spread - girl wishes not to have angered her friend and then reading in a library about time machines.

Text © Pauline David-Sax, 2023. Image © Melquea Smith, 2023.

If only she could go back

to that day and unsay


But that was impossible.

Unless . . .

Bailey's got such a fun personality and I love the colander on her head. However, it turns out building a time machine requires two people but her mother's busy and the older brother is too mature. Staring at a drawing of herself and Nia, Bailey realizes she's alienated the one person who always had time and appreciated her ideas. As she stares at her jumbled creation and her sign on the door - "Time Masheen" - suddenly a voice says, “It’s C-H-I-N-E." Though still hurt, Nia had come to see what Bailey was up to and agreed to stay and help create the most amazing time machine. As it is never stated why Nia came over, before Bailey apologized, it is left to the reader to answer that for themselves and perhaps ponder whether they would have done so themselves.

Internal spread - series of vignettes of girl gathering supplies and failing to get mom or brother to help her build a time machine.

Text © Pauline David-Sax, 2023. Image © Melquea Smith, 2023.

While their first stop is no surprise - last Thursday - the poignant, softly colored illustrations beautifully capture their heartfelt moment. The ending is joyful and has a little bit of a magical twist. Helpful back matter offers hints on how and when to offer an apology. It's a wonderful SEL book combining owning up to and apologizing for mistakes, with the creativity and imagination of two special friends.


Example of a time machine a child could make.

- make your own time machine.

- if you could build a time machine, where would you go? Is there anything you wish you could fix or unsay?

- for a little extra help, check out the apologizing "Do's and Don'ts" at the back of the book.

- pair this book with Horrible Bear! by Ame Dyckman, illustrated by Zachariah OHora and Pete the Cat and the Missing Cupcakes by Kimberly and James Dean.

If you missed the interview with Pauline David-Sax on Monday, find it (here).

This post is part of a series by authors and KidLit bloggers called Perfect Picture Book Fridays. For more picture book suggestions and resources see Susanna Leonard Hill's Perfect Picture Books.


Maria Marshall

 Photograph © A. Marshall

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