Grab some coins for the jukebox, and get ready for a colorful, time-traveling musical tale about family and courage.
A mysterious jukebox, old vinyl records, and cryptic notes on music history, are Shaheen’s only clues to her father’s abrupt disappearance. She looks to her cousin, Tannaz, who seems just as perplexed, before they both turn to the jukebox which starts…glowing?
Suddenly, the girls are pulled from their era and transported to another time! Keyed to the music on the record, the jukebox sends them through decade after decade of music history, from political marches, to landmark concerts. But can they find Shaheen’s dad before the music stops? This time-bending magical mystery tour invites readers to take the ride of their lives for a coming-of-age adventure.
The summary for Jukebox suggests that Shaheen and her cousin go on a magical time-travelling adventure that will teach them–and readers–all about music history. Readers expecting to experience meaningful, in-depth looks at history, however, will be disappointed. The jukebox turns out to be more about selling a premise than about actually teaching history. And even the backstory given to explain the presence of the jukebox seems slapped on, providing just enough detail to get the story moving, while not providing enough to flesh out the characters or make readers care about them. The lack of detail in this story, in almost all respects, makes Jukebox a rather forgettable tale.
Stories with time travel have great potential to not only teach readers about a certain historical moment, but also to bring a unique sense of adventure to the tale. Where will the girls go next? Why? Will they make it back home alive? In this case, however, the time travel aspect is not particularly well thought-out, nor is it integrated into the story. The main idea seems to be that the titular jukebox will bring the listener back to the year an album came out, maybe around where someone is singing the song. But there is no real rhyme or reason to where the girls go, nor is every moment significant. At one point, for instance, they find themselves in the middle of a lindy hop dance competition, which is interesting, but not historically notable. At another point, the jukebox takes one of the girls to an ERA March, but the book never explains what the ERA is or why it matters. All the time travel happens this way, with the girls dropping in to see people and places that the story never actually engages with. There seems to be little point to time travel, however, if readers do not even know what they are looking at.
The backstory to the jukebox discovery is just as disappointing. Basically, Shaheen’s father disappears one day, so she goes looking for him, along with her cousin. Eventually, it comes out that she has been struggling with their relationship because all he does is talk about music and he does not even do things like read the Angie Thomas book she recommended to him, so she believes he clearly disappeared because of her. Their struggles, however, are glossed over at the end as they reunite. Other aspects that are thrown in, such as Shaheen’s anxiety and her cousin’s decision to come out as bi, are also glossed over simply because the book is too short to engage meaningfully with all the issues it wants to raise.
The art for Jukebox is cute, and probably the one aspect of the book that I really enjoyed. However, the lack of engagement with history, the slapped on backstory, and the rushed ending all work against making the book something I would recommend or read again. I wish I could say that at least kids might be inspired to learn more about the historical moments mentioned, but I do not think the book really gives enough detail for them to know what it is they would be interested in knowing more about. Jukebox has a wonderful premise. It just does not deliver the story it promises.
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