Every two weeks, Alex Goh of Star Kids Children’s Bookstore will review two books for babies, kids, or teens (ages 0-18).
Magic Tree House #50: Hurry Up, Houdini! (2013) by Mary Pope Osborne; illustrated by Sal Murdocca
Suitable for ages 7-10
Price: RMB 95
Jack and Annie are heading out on another mission for Merlin the magician! This time they have to find a famous stage magician, the great Harry Houdini. But when the magic tree house whisks them to Coney Island, they land in an amusement park. They will have plenty of time for fun before Houdini performs – and plenty of time to get into trouble! Sourced from Random House US
Hurry Up, Houdini! is the fiftieth book in the highly popular Magic Tree House series.
Jack and Annie, the brother-and-sister pair, receive a note from Merlin to go on a new mission to learn a secret from the Great Houdini. To help them, Merlin leaves a Ring of Truth and a bottle of his magic mist. The ring glows whenever Jack and Annie hear the truth and the magic mist allows them to be great at anything they choose for an hour.
Like all siblings, Jack and Annie talk like best friends one moment and fight the next. However, they serve as good role models for young readers, especially when Jack returns for Annie and they work out their differences.
Featuring a real-life figure like Houdini makes this fictional story a lot more exciting, stretching the reader’s curiosity and inspiring them to find out more about history.
At the end of the story, many people still cannot figure out how Houdini is able to escape a tank full of water with his hands cuffed. The secret of Houdini wasn’t magic – it was hard work. He was able perform all those magic tricks and great escapes because he kept practicing until he perfected his art. This point is driven home for young readers. Truly a great book for every child and a great series to keep.
TimeRiders: The Mayan Prophecy (2013) by Alex Scarrow
Suitable for ages 13-18
Price: RMB 80
Get ready for TimeRiders: The Mayan Prophecy, the eighth book in Alex Scarrow’s number one best-selling time-travel adventure series.
Liam O’Connor should have died at sea in 1912. Maddy Carter should have died on a plane in 2010. Sal Vikram should have died in a fire in 2026.
But all three have been given a second chance – to work for an agency that no one knows exists. Its purpose: to prevent time travel destroying history…
When Maddy finally unlocks fragments of the secret that Becks has been holding on to, the TimeRiders start to piece together their true purpose. Racing through time to connect the clues, the team discovers a Mayan tribe and an ancient relic provides a vital link to the past…and future.
But not all the TimeRiders can cope with the discovery, and one threatens to bring them all down if they can act out their revenge… Sourced from Penguin UK
TimeRiders: The Mayan Prophecy starts with teenagers Liam, Maddy and Sal being rescued during different time periods by a mysterious man, Foster. Later, they discovere that their rescue was not by accident; they were recruited by an agency wanting to stop people from traveling back in time to change history.
Earlier in the series, Liam, Maddy and Sal traveled to World War II and prehistoric times. They battled with Robin Hood, discovering in the process that Little John was possibly a robot from the future. They recued Abraham Lincoln from being murdered, only to discover that they brought him back to the year 2001 by accident.
Each story is filled with interesting historical facts and allows readers to experience different eras. They can also see the current world get twisted into different versions when a key historical figure or event fails to take place.
In The Mayan Prophecy, Liam, Maddy and Sal go back to 1479 to find a Mayan tribe that may possess an ancient relic linking the future to the past. However, the team loses Sal and are almost destroyed when confronted with “The Thing” that comes out of the relic. The book felt like an Indiana Jones story – truly a page-turner!
For this edition of Reading Corner, it is pure coincidence that I selected two books that involve time travelling. Sometimes I wished I could travel to the past and change things. The TimeRider series shows that there are consequences to changing the past and the human race might be better off if they simply let time run its course. Teens can ask themselves: “What would I do if I could travel to the past or the future?”
Later this year, look out for book nine, the final installment in the TimeRiders series!
Alex Goh is the merchandising director of Star Kids Children’s Bookstore. He started his career as a children’s book distributor in 1996, traveling around the world looking for good children’s books to share with kids, parents and educators. Over the years, reading became an enjoyable part of his work and he flies around China sharing great stories with children from different parts of the world. If you’ve read a great book and would like more people to know about it, email Alex at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Photos courtesy of Star Kids Children’s Bookstore