Adventures in Ancient China

Reviewed: September 30, 2008
By: Linda Bailey / art by Bill Slavin
Publisher: Kids Can Press
48 pages, $8.85

A typical adventure in the Good Times Travel Agency series begins with the Binkerton kids going to see Julian T. Pettigrew at his agency offices. This time they are drawn by the smell of the Chinese noodles he’s eating and when they have a taste and express their love of all things Chinese, the eccentric Mr. P. pulls down one his special books and, before they can tell him not to open it, he has. J

osh and Emma, the twins, and little sister, Libby, find themselves in ancient China with Emma holding the book.

On the cover it says “Open this book and your journey’s begun. Read every word and your journey is done.” Since they’ve already gone through this with books about ancient Egypt, Greece, the Middle Ages and the Vikings, the kids know this means they have to get through the whole book (which is shown to us on the bottom half of each page) and go through some pretty wild adventures before they will end up back in the shop.

Fortunately the magic of the book altered their clothing and gave them the local language, so they can get by, and the book is there to tell them how to behave. As usual, however, one of them - Libby this time - gets separated from the others and they have to find her, since they all have to be together when they get to the end of the book.

Naturally enough, rescuing Libby gets them all into trouble and they find themselves being chased by soldiers along the Great Wall and escaping to the other side only to be confronted by the barbarians the Wall was built to keep out. The only way to escape is to read faster, and then ... but that would be telling.

These books are a lot of fun as well as being informative. The final page always contains a totally factual essay about the place the Binkertons have visited, as well as a short index (odd in a story book, yes?) so young readers can go back and check out the various factual topics covered along the way.