Nick of Time Book Poster Image

Nick of Time



Riotous, violent adventure with classic virtues.

What parents need to know

Educational value

Smattering of real historical characters and events, plus the high adventure here may have a special appeal to reluctant readers, especially boys.

Positive messages

This book celebrates classic values, like bravery and honor.

Positive role models

Nick is brave, stalwart, loyal, honest, true, and utterly dependable.


Battles with swords, guns, and cannons, with much blood, and many deaths and injuries, including amputation without anesthetics. A boy's arm is blown off and hangs by a flap of skin. A sailor is killed by being put in a torpedo tube and fired into the sea. Hints of torture by scalpel, leading to a dream of having a tongue cut out. Several people are eaten by sharks. A man cuts off the tip of his own tongue and eats it. Many children are imprisoned and kept in miserable conditions.


Mention of a man "sporting" with his "mistress," and of "lewd advances."


Some mild swearing: "hell" and "damn."

Not applicable
Drinking, drugs, & smoking

Pipe and cigar smoking, drinking of grog, rum, brandy.

Parents Need to Know

Parents need to know that there is quite a bit of violence here, some rather gruesome, especially a gratuitous scene where a man cuts off and swallows the tip of his own tongue to frighten a boy he is attempting to kill. The violence is set in a science fiction context, but it may be intense for kids unable to separate fantasy from reality. All in all though, this book celebrates classic values, like bravery and honor, and Nick is brave, stalwart, loyal, honest, true, and utterly dependable. Readers will pick up on a smattering of real historical characters and events, and the high adventure here may have a special appeal to reluctant readers, especially boys.

What's the story?

Nick longs to be a hero, but sees little opportunity on his tiny island in the English Channel in 1939. But then, in quick succession, he discovers that his father is spying on the Nazis, a pirate is threatening him and his family -- and an ancestor from the past has sent him a time machine and needs his help to save Lord Nelson. Soon he is off to a sea battle in a previous century while his little sister helps a British commander to capture an experimental Nazi submarine.

Is it any good?


There's no doubt this genre mash-up will have boys, and even some girls, thoroughly engrossed right from the exciting opening. It's got pirates, spies, Nazi villains, swordfights, artillery -- and even time travel. This is the kind of book that can launch a million daydreams. And if it has a smattering of real historical characters and events, so much the better. Are the values espoused too anachronistic for modern times? Not for kids, to whom a black-and-white viewpoint is natural and appealing. Compared to such classic predecessors as Treasure Island, it may not be as well written, and the attempts at humor may sometimes fall flat, but it has one huge advantage for modern readers -- it moves. Like a galleon under full sail -- or a secret, super-powered Nazi submarine.

Families can talk about...

  • Families can talk about the author's intention. He has said that we don't have adventure books for boys anymore, so he decided to write one. Is he right? Is there a lack of adventure books for boys with the old-fashioned virtues of courage and honor? Does this book have more appeal to boys than girls?

  • This book has a sequel called The Time Pirate, and the author plans other installments. Did you know that when you picked it up? Do you think you will read more about Nick's adventures?

  • What's fun about reading a series? What might be fun about writing one? Why would a publisher be interested in printing a series?

Book details

Author:Ted Bell
Illustrator:Russ Kramer
Genre:Science Fiction
Book type:Fiction
Publisher:St. Martin's Press
Publication date:May 1, 2008
Number of pages:434
Publisher's recommended age(s):10 - 14

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Parent of a 8 and 9 year old Written byBaby Bre August 5, 2010
I agree with the Common Sense rating on this book for violence. Much of it is quite graphic, however, I feel that brings the story to life all the more. The author is right in that there are few adventure stories written for boys these days, excluding the ones that have been softened up for "today's" boys. Pirates and Nazis were brutal and ruthless, and to portray them otherwise would be dishonest. It is clearly protrayed in this book, and adds emmensely to the suspense, adventure, and courageousness of the characters. It's only because of the graphic nature of the violence that I rated this OK for 10+ and not younger. I strongly disagree with the Common Sense rating for the "Good Stuff". The characters in this book exibit strength of principals and values that are commonly missing, not only from literature today, but from much of society in general. We need our children reading more of everyday heroes with these qualities. I just finished Nick of Time with my 8-year-old son and 9-year-old daughter who loved every minute of it and begged for more every night. When we finished the last page, they both shouted, "That was the best story you've ever read us!"
What other families should know
Too much violence
Educational value
Great messages
Great role models
Kid, 9 years old July 12, 2009
amazing storyline great text love it
What other families should know
Too much violence
Too much drinking/drugs/smoking
Great messages
Kid, 9 years old April 9, 2008


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