In the seventeen years since The Time Warp Trio series was started and the nine years since my daughter first read it, it seems that is has become an animated television show! If you seek these books out, please be sure you find the originals as it is my understanding that there are some that are based on the television show, which is slightly different and not illustrated byLane Smith, Jon Scieszka's most frequent partner in crime. Also, it seems as though a new illustrator, Adam McCaulley, has taken over for Smith as the series progressed.
Joe, Fred and Sam (all boys) are the main characters of this series that, like the Magic Tree House books, involves a magic book (titled The Book) that takes them to various places and times. They go to ancient Egypt, Greece and Rome, medieval times and to the construction of the Brooklyn Bridge. They hang with the Mayans in 1000 AD, aliens in 2095, Vikings, cowboys, samurais, neanderthals, pirates, George Washington, Marco Polo and Leonardo daVinci. However, my favorite is when they encounter the characters from the books on their reading list in book #7, Summer Reading is Killing Me.
The main difference between the Time Warp Trio and the Magic Tree House books is the emphasis on humor rather than history, altough the books are filled with factual, historical information just like the Magic Tree House books. If you have ever read The Stinky Cheese Man or the True Story of the Three Little Pigs by Scieszka and Smith, you will know what kind of humor I am talking about.
Summer Reading is Killing Me, is a love letter to Scieszka's favorite children's book authors and will be a delight for any relatively well read child and adult. When Joe slips his summer reading list for grades 1 - 8 into The Book, the boys encounter everyone from Frog and Toad to the Hoboken Chicken to Charlotte, who leaves a message for the boys in her web directing them to the library for help out of their mess. There, they are trapped along with all the other main characters from kid's books by a deranged Teddy Bear who wants to do away with all of them so that he and all the other villains from these books can be the main characters of every book, ensuring titles like Frankenstein in Wonderland, Encyclopedia Teddy Bear and Green Eggs and Dracula will end up on the shelves. In the end, a girl character none of the boys recognizes steps forward to make a speech about the importance of the stories. There is a very funny scene where Joe, Sam and Fred try to figure out which character and book she is from but can't. They realize they've never read a "girl's book" and thus will never know who she is, but they rescue her anyway after her lengthy speech puts the villains to sleep. The best part is, there is a summer reading list at the end of the book that includes all of the books mentioned in Summer Reading is Killing Me.
Jon Scieszka, who served as the first ever National Ambassador for Young People's Literature for 2008 and 2009 and Lane Smith are also the creators of these brilliant, hilarious picture books, many of which are now classics. Their most recent collaboration, and possibly my favorite, is Cowboy and Octopus, one long non sequitur that is the perfect companion to Mac Barnett and Adam Rex's paradigm busting picture book, Guess Again!
It seems as though is Cowboy and Octopus currently (temporarily???) out of print, but, when it first came out the creators started a blog in which Cowboy and Octopus were photographed around town (and the whole United States) enjoying the sights!