Oriol Vidal, Illustrator
Scholastic, 2018 90 pages
Branches/Time Jumpers series #1
Chase and Ava are siblings who are helping their parents sell artwork at a flea market. After the shift is over they wander around and discover a young woman selling suitcases. One particular suitcase seems to beckon to the kids. After initially being reluctant to sell, the young woman can tell that it was meant to be theirs and gives it to them for free. Meanwhile, the previous owner of the suitcase tracks it down and is livid when it is no longer at the booth. When Chase and Eva open the battered suitcase they find mysterious items. While holding what appears to be a dragon's head doorknob, the siblings are transported back in time to the castle of King Arthur, where they hear of a dastardly plan to eliminate the king. Chase and Ave become determined to save King Arthur and with the help of the famous magician Merlin they hatch a plan. Danger and adventure lurk as the kids attempt to save the day and return back to their own time.
The scholastic Branches line of books for emerging chapter readers introduces a new series sure to appeal to kids not quite ready for the Magic Tree House. What's not to love about this series? It is written by one of my favorite authors, contains time travel, and features King Arthur. Usually time travel series start with dinosaurs and, though it looked like the book was headed in that direction, it veered off to a more unconventional and, in my opinion, more entertaining place. As with other Branches books, this series is highly illustrated with a black and white picture on every page. The print is large, the vocabulary is controlled, and the design is approachable. The action never stops and Mass does not get bogged down with time travel specifics. The suitcase and remote control within simply make it work. There is a villain who will pop up in further installments as the kids travel to other times, based on the objects in the suitcase. Teachers will find curriculum connections and questions in the back will help with discussion and comprehension. The next series installment, which travels back to ancient Egypt, is set to be released in October with two more titles expected in 2019.