In this nonfiction/fiction hybrid graphic novel, the three Binkerton siblings are accidentally sent back in time to the Han dynasty of ancient China by Mr. Pettigrew, owner of the Good Times Travel Agency.
The older two, fraternal twins, just want to get home as soon as possible, but when their little sister disappears, they begin a journey from the countryside to Chang’an, the capital city, to search for her. Luckily, they have with them Julian T. Pettigrew’s Personal Guide to Ancient China, a book within a book that’s excerpted in panels at the bottom of most pages, offering informational text while the kids’ adventures occupy the upper portions. The entire enterprise is lighthearted, with slapstick comedy and tongue-in cheek advice. The guidebook covers broad aspects of China’s history and culture, such as farming, family life, and philosophy, in a few paragraphs each while the madcap plot brings the children into direct contact with the topics discussed in the guide. (As the twins dash through the palace throne room to grab their sister, the guidebook reads, “Hoping to meet the emperor? Forget it!”) Illustrations are appropriately humorous, with a tendency toward caricature, but suit the adventure well. Identified as “barbarians” by the Chinese people they meet, the Binkertons have brown hair and light skin.
Riding the recent wave of interest in graphic nonfiction, this is a fine basic overview of ancient Chinese history and culture for readers who prefer highly illustrated learning. (Graphic novel/nonfiction. 8-12)