Tuesday, June 01, 2004
Time travel books teachhistory outside the classroom By Judy Belanger
Time travel is a fascinating concept; pursued in many books since the mid-1980's when the "Back to the Future" movie trilogy was so popular. Stories presented in this way give young readers a fun way to learn about historical events.
SUMMER OF THE SEA SERPENT (MAGIC TREE HOUSE NO. 31), by Mary Pope Osborne, illustrated by Sal Murdocca, Random House, $11.95; ages 7-10. If you visit a second- or third-grade classroom you probably will find children reading one of the books in the Magic Tree House series. This new addition is the third in the Merlin Mission series. Inside the magic tree house, Annie and Jack find a blue shell with a summons from Merlin the sorcerer and a rhyme to their next adventure. They need to bring the sword of light to Merlin with the help of the Water Knight, the Spider Queen and their friend Teddy from the other Camelot stories.
Before the magic tree house starts to spin faster and faster, Osborne does her homework. She introduces readers to history in an entertaining way that incorporates storytelling and mythical creatures. Osborne has created resource materials to go along with the series, with an activity book due out soon to go along with this summer's Olympics. The activity book also serves as a companion to Magic Tree House No. 16, Hour of the Olympics. I was recently in a class where the students were creating their own tree house books ... and what wonderful stories they were, inspired by the format of Osborne's books. For more history fun, visit www.magictreehouse.com for activity pages that can be printed and an interactive time line.
ME OH MAYA (TIME WARP TRIO NO. 13), by John Scieszka, illustrated by Adam McCauley, Viking, $14.99; ages 7-11.
Sam, Fred and Joe are best friends. The trio does everything together. For his birthday one year, Joe receives a book from his uncle, a magician, and this is no ordinary book. It is thin and dark blue with moons, stars and silver lettering on the cover and wrapped in black and gold paper.
Joe's uncle warns him to be careful what he wishes for because he just might get it. Before the boys understand what is happening, they find themselves on their way to Camelot, the first of their many adventures. They soon learn that a green time-traveling mist sends them to their destinations. To get back to the present, they have to find the person who has "The Book" in their travel time.
The newest book in the series takes the boys to Chichen Itza, Mexico, in the year 1000. The boys are playing on the basketball court when they look around to find themselves in a Maya ring ball court face to face with the high priest. Kakapupahed, or Kaka as he is called, is not well liked by the people. He only got to be high priest by fixing a ball game. The boys agree to a play in a match against him in hopes of saving their lives.
TIME SOLDIERS: ARTHUR, by Kathleen Duey, photographed by Robert Gould, Big Guy Books, $15.95; ages 9-12. Six neighborhood friends save their money to buy equipment to go camping during summer vacation. While in the woods, two of the friends discover a swirling light with a dinosaur in the middle. They try to explain to their parents, but, of course, no one believes them. The boys announce they are going exploring, and, of course, mom reminds them to be home for lunch. The boys call the the others in the group and tell them to bring the gear. Equipped with a video camera, they are off on their journey.
And what an adventure they have in the time of dinosaurs. The portal opens again the next day for them to continue, but then closes for an entire year. Yet no matter how long they seem to be gone, when they return only an hour has passed-and their camera equipment doesn't seem to have worked properly. They don't know why or when the portal will open again. But they prepare themselves by studying history, learning survival skills and keeping their equipment ready for their next adventure.
In this, the fourth book, the group meets up with Merlin and helps Arthur pull the sword free from the stone. The next book in the series will be about a mummy. A variety of resource pages for the books can be found at www.timesoldiers.com.
MICKEY & ME: A BASEBALL CARD ADVENTURE, by Dan Gutman, HarperTrophy, $15.99; ages 9-12. Joe "Stosh" Stoshack learned several books ago that when he holds a baseball card in his hand, he can travel to the time that player was famous. In Gutman's newest adventure, Joe is ready to visit Mickey Mantle. Joe's dad has been in a very serious automobile accident. He tells his son where to find his prized Mickey Mantle card. Joe's dad wants him to warn Mantle about a fall that will lead to the end of his baseball career.
Joe has the card in his hand and is on his way to 1951 when his cousin switches it with a card for Dorothy "Mickey" Maguire. Joe winds up in a chicken outfit as the mascot for the Milwaukee Chicks, a famous women's baseball team during 1944. Women's baseball was very popular during World War II, because so many men, including many baseball players, were off to war. The Chicks are owned by P. K. Wrigley, who also owned the Chicago Cubs.
Included in the book is an explanation of which parts are historically accurate and which are fictionalized to help make the story. Other books in the series include Babe Ruth, Jackie Robinson, Joe Jackson and Honus Wagner, which was made into the TV movie "The Winning Season."Judy Belanger is a retired elementary learning resource center teacher who lives with her husband in Addison. They have two grown children and four grandchildren. She continues to substitute in grades K-6 in the school where she taught.