The Magic School Bus must be in the garage, but teacherly chaperon Professor Tempo not only expedites the outing, but even looks like Ms. Frizzle (in slacks).
Though he professes boredom, her student Augustus turns out to have a rather encyclopedic grasp on historical highlights. Teacher in tow, he skitters chronologically through past eras, from the first harnessing of fire 1 million years ago or so (“I know—awesome, eh?”) to 1969’s moon landing. Along the way he name-checks platoons of historical figures including six ancient Olympic champions, Nefertiti, and “Tutankhamen’s mother,” Qutb-ud-din Aybak, first sultan of Delhi, Leonardo (“bit of a genius”), Ada Lovelace, Australian pioneer pilot Nancy-Bird Walton, Einstein (“a friendly dude”), and three of the five Marx Brothers. Done in the flat, retro, screen-print look of M. Sasek’s This Is… series, Stevenson’s stylized illustrations are crowded with labeled figures in period costume, but Augustus, sporting red glasses and schoolboy shorts, can be picked out easily enough. Despite good intentions, it’s a Eurocentric tour, with the slanted eyes of Qin Shi Huang and associates adding that parochial flavor…but readers touch down at least once on every inhabited continent, and Augustus’ interests run more to arts, trains, and people than to wars and disasters.
A truly long field trip, with nary a map nor a timeline but unusual stops aplenty. (resource list, index) (Informational picture book. 10-12)