‘Hey!’ Georgie waved to me from across the quadrangle after school. I was heading out to the oval for our first cricket practice for the season. ‘Have you heard yet?’ she yelled.
I knew what she was talking about. The MCG cricket camp. The letters were being sent out this week. Every day I’d raced home to check the letter box but there’d been nothing. Jimbo hadn’t got anything either, which made me feel slightly better. I wondered about Scott Craven, but I wasn’t going to ask him. Besides, as long as I didn’t know the letters had arrived, there was a chance that mine was still coming.
Howzat! is two books in one: Book 4: Toby Jones and the Timeless Cricket Match and Book 5: Toby Jones and the Clash with Father Time. Each is an instalment in the Toby Jones series. Toby Jones is a mad keen cricketer. He’s also a soak for cricketing facts. But more than that, he’s discovered that he’s a time traveller and can travel to any cricket game recorded in Wisden’s Cricketers’ Almanack. Time travel is awesome, allowing Toby to travel to some of the most famous cricket games in history. But there are others who also want to travel, and not all of them are respectful of the rules of time travel. In ‘Toby Jones and the Timeless Cricket Match’ Toby travels backwards and forwards, including to a cricket game that he could never have imagined. In ‘Toby Jones and The Clash with Father Time’, Toby’s troubles only get worse. Everything he does seems to have consequences for those close to him. His mentor Jim tries to help him, but sometimes Jim’s help is not enough. Toby is on his own.
Howzat! (Toby Jones) is a wild ride. On one level there’s the adventure that every aspiring cricketer experiences as they improve in skills. New opportunities present themselves. Cricket is a cruel game, where a momentary lapse in concentration or a single ill-timed shot can see a batter fail. Bowlers have similar challenges, they are only as good as their last ball. Howzat! (Toby Jones) is full of cricketing facts and figures, terms and stories. Even as the story of Toby’s cricket progresses, a wilder adventure is evolving. The threads run parallel, both requiring Toby to grow and develop as both a player and a person. In any team there are times when there are rules to be followed and times when instinct and self-knowledge take over. Recommended for cricket-lovers and for those enjoying a wild adventure through time.
Howzat! , Brett Lee and Michael Panckridge
Angus & Robertson 2009
review by Claire Saxby, Children’s Author
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‘Okay. Here’s the equation. Listen up. Six balls to go. Nine runs to win. Can they do it? Jono, check your field. Toby, are you ready?’ he said to me.
Mr Pasquali was excited. Boy, does he love his cricket. He is our cricket coach, and our class teacher too. Everyone wanted Mr Pasquali as their class teacher. Even the Year 3s were talking about him and hoping that they’d get him when they got to Year 6. And if you were mad about cricket – like I was – then his class was the place to be. Mr Pasquali had a way of bringing cricket into most of the subjects we did.
Toby Jones is cricket mad. Luckily so is his father. And his teacher. Even his little sister, Natalie likes cricket, although she mostly plays sock cricket in the hall. A trip to the MCG introduces Toby and his friends to a little library full of cricketing books, including ‘Wisden Cricketers’ Almanacks’. Toby also meets Jim, a mysterious old man who introduces Toby to the wonders – and dangers – of time travel. With the help of Wisden and an old poem, Toby can travel back to any of the cricket games detailed in the books. As Toby learns more about time travel he and his team, Riverwall, begin the season’s play. Each chapter ends with a cricketing anecdote. While these do not related directly to the chapter they end, each reveals a statistic, a record, or conditions/circumstances of a particular game.
Hat Trick combines the first three Toby Jones time travel adventures into the one book. This makes it about as thick as a Wisden Almanack. Add to that cricketing tips from Brett Lee, Toby’s interview with Andrew Symonds, scorecards from several memorable cricket matches and the Riverwall season, and this is one heck of a book! Toby and his friends are in Year 6 and play in the Under 13 competition for Riverwall. Each title within Hat Trick tells part of Toby’s adventure with time travel. Other themes explored include the changing nature of friendship, competition and sportsmanship. Cricket fans will enjoy the blow-by-blow description of some of the local games and the revisiting of some of cricket’s most famous matches. The adventure moves quickly and although Toby is clearly the main character, other characters are given important roles to play and are fully realised. The three novels included here were initially released as individual titles: Toby Jones and the Magic Cricket Almanack (2003), Toby Jones and the Secret of the Missing Scorecard (2004), and Toby Jones and the Mystery of the Time-Travel Tour’(2005). There are two further titles in the Toby Jones series: Toby Jones and the Timeless Cricket Match, and Toby Jones and the Clash with Father Time.’ Recommended for mid- to upper-primary readers, particularly cricket fans.
Hat Trick, Brett Lee & Michael Panckridge
Angus & Robertson 2008
Toby Jones is a young cricketer with a lot on his mind. His team is playing in the finals against the Scorpions, and it’s up to him to spearhead the bowling attack. But that’s not the biggest thing in his life. Toby is a time traveller. He has a special gift which enables him to travel back to old games of cricket and enjoy seeing them live. But sometimes this is isn’t such a good thing. Toby’s friend Jim Oldfield has been left behind watching Bradman play in Leeds in 1930 and Toby is the only one who can find him and bring him back.
In the meantime, Phillip Smales, the manager of the Scorpions, is up to his old tricks. He has stolen the scorecard that enables anyone to become a time traveller and is planning to use it for a new business enterprise. The problem is, he doesn’t care if anyone gets left behind. It is up to Toby and his friends to try to stop him.
Toby Jones and the Mystery of the Time-Travel Tour is the third book in the series, and readers who have read the first two will be at an advantage. The plot is clear enough, however, for those new to the series to be able to follow. As well as plenty of cricket and action, there are cricket facts scattered throughout the book and cricket tips from Australian bowler Brett Lee.
An absorbing read for cricket lovers aged 10-12.
Toby Jones and the Mystery of the Time-Travel Tour, by Michael Panckridge with Brett Lee
Harper Collins, 2005