3 out of 5
“Published by the Society for the Understanding of Early Child Development in Scholastics.” I can find absolutely zero information on this society, but they are a “division” of Infotree Service, Inc., according to the indicia, and they are a… staffing company. Dr. Herodotus we’ll presume is an alias, named after the so-called Ancient Greek father of history, so good luck googling that.
Ken Krekeler’s illustrations – why I bought this series, which I’ve only ever found on Amazon – are quite bizarre, with a big-head, Funko style for its lead characters that’s done with a looseness of line that captures motion quite well, putting it in a weird uncanny valley of naturalistic and stylized, an off vibe that is added to by its rather cheap looking MS Paint colors and production.
The content rather caught me off guard at first because of its absolutely zero context – why two kids and a talking dog have a time machine, and why Dr. Debunk wants to prevent certain historical events from occurring, and what, exactly, Debunk’s trash-bagged “History Hack” minions are – but, okay, kids books are weird, and ‘why’ can be replaced by just explaining that things are happening, but at least some justification for our evil Dr. (he’s just “up to no good”) might’ve made these books seem like a little bit more than 2 or 3 repeated facts about each book’s covered event.
Which are: “The Wright Brothers Adventure,” “The Apollo 11 Adventure,” and “The Ice Age Adventure.”
In each, Dr. Herodotus will have the time alarm beep, telling the Time Troop to travel to date X, and one of the Troop will explain to the other – repeating the facts several times, because that’s how we learn – why the date is important. Only “The Ice Age Adventure” follows that up with some logical What Ifs, though; the first two books just kind of stop flat with suggesting that we wouldn’t have planes or space exploration if the featured happenstances are foiled, and though I can’t expect ages 6-9 or whatever to want to dive deep into that, it still seems like a short-sighted simplification.
I realize I’m ragging on these things way too much, especially when there’s definitely a bit of charm to be found in how off these things seem, like you’re expecting the Society for the Understanding of Early Child Development in Scholastics to remove their hoods on the last page and invite you to check out some material on dianetics. If you go into them with little expectations – and what could you have, really – I actually found them to be moderately entertainingly head-scratching, and I’d say Herodotus and Krekeler started to find a groove by the third book that could’ve started to evolve into moderately quality edutainment, and who knows – maybe 100s of these things were published, packed up in some church basement somewhere.