Thursday, July 31, 2008

Books That Make Us Say, "WOW!"

Robert Gould's Time Soldiers ® series
Published by Big Guy Books
Kathleen Duey, the co-author of the series with Robert Gould (Duey's blog here), was a National Book Award Finalist and a had a Cybils Short List book in 2007.
The books, created and photographed by Robert Gould, are digitally illustrated by Eugene Epstein.
Review copies (Book #1 Rex, Book #2 Rex2, and Book #3 Patch, all copyright 2005) were freebies from Sally at Cover to Cover. Looking at Powell's and Amazon, it would appear that there are 7 or 8 in the series now.

Every book you read, you read through a series of filters: your knowledge of the topic, your experience with the author, your mood that day, your purpose for reading, your age, your reading preferences and/or ability.

One filter we use every time we read a children's book is the Teacher Filter. We imagine every book we read in the hands of a child, or in the hands of an adult reading with a child (or group of children).

So when I tell you that these Time Soldiers books made me say, "WOW!" when I first opened them (and consequently had the same effect on teachers of both older and younger students than I teach, as well as on a Literacy Principal), please understand that this WOW is not the same kind of WOW that The Underneath has elicited from both of us.

Every page of these books is illustrated with photographs that make you feel like you're watching a movie or TV show of the book. In Book #1, Mikey and his big brother Rob discover a funny-looking spot in the woods through which they can see a dinosaur. Their father doesn't believe them, so they gather their four friends and the video camera and they walk through the funny-looking spot and into a prehistoric dinosauric adventure. They film what they see so they can take the evidence home to Mikey and Rob's father. Lots of the illustrations appear to be the view through the video camera's viewfinder. (Readers who love to spot details in the illustrations will keep track of the duration of the adventure in the viewfinder's time stamp, as well as the shrinking battery power of the camera.) By page 52, the kids have decided that they have come through a Time Portal. When they get back home, they agree to wait until the next day to show the video tape to their parents. Then, at the end of the book, "In the silence of the night..." a man in a black suit and black sunglasses steals the tape from the video recorder. (cue the "uh-oh" music -- duhn-dhun duhn...)

These books are not Great Literature. They will never be considered for either the Newbery or the Caldecott. Here's what they WILL do:
  • I'm predicting that they will be wildly popular with my students.
  • They will hook reluctant readers.
  • They will support developing readers.
  • They will lead readers to other books in the Time Travel genre.
  • They will inspire writers to tell stories with digital media.


  1. Anonymous11:43 AM

    Sounds like a good series for Jr.! Thank you.

  2. These look good. What is the recommended age range?

  3. Susan, I AGREE! Come back and let me know how they go over with him!

    Jama, I would say these books are good for 5 and up. Maybe younger. And WAY up. There are testimonials on the Big Guy Books website from teenagers and parents/teachers of older students. These books are guaranteed to engage kids. You've got to see them to believe them. You'll open one and you, too, will say, WOW.

  4. Ok - great find!! Definitely have to put my hands on some of these during our CTC trip!!

  5. The Time Soldiers books are intended as stealth literacy.
    It is a tiny company and the newest title is delayed. When I visit schools and show the ilustrations, the front row stands up.

    kind regards,
    PS. Kathi Appelts's The Underneath is completely brilliant. I know her and can't want to see her to tell her how wonderful it is. If I were on next year' Newbery comittee...


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