Supercool substitute teacher Rush Revere and his time-traveling horse, Liberty, take two students to 1620 to meet such exceptional Americans as William Bradford and Squanto.
In a series of jumps, the amiable Rush takes football player and closet nerd Tommy and pretty, soft-spoken, dark-skinned Freedom (possibly Native American) to such significant moments as the Mayflower’s embarkation from England, its landing at Plymouth and the first Thanksgiving. In their encounters, they learn about the Pilgrims’ quest for religious freedom, the difficult conditions they faced both onboard and in the New World, and how the fledgling colony’s relations with the local Native Americans were established. The presentation of history adheres to the standard narrative presented in classrooms for decades throughout the 20th century. Readers looking for Limbaugh’s politics won’t have to search hard. Tommy and Rush school Bradford in the values of competition and individualism, while Bradford and Squanto give thanks to God for seeing them through adversity. The storytelling that carries history, adventure and politics is breathtakingly inept. The rules governing both time travel and Liberty’s remarkable powers are both inconsistent and so arbitrarily convenient they feel as though they were made up as the author went along. Rush and the children’s interactions with historical figures are thoroughly wooden and elide the basic rules of the genre; Bradford never questions Rush’s late-18th-century getup, for instance, and is stupendously incurious about their monthslong absences. The prose never rises above amateurish and often reads as though written by the middle school students Rush teaches: “Tommy plopped down on a random desk….” Although the faux parchment pages catch the eye, illustration, design and even proofreading (Samoset is consistently misspelled “Somoset” in the text though not in captions or the author’s note) are as rudimentary and slipshod as the prose. The ever hungry Liberty provides needed, if lame, comic relief. A closing quiz leads readers to the website twoifbytea.com for answers.
Exceptionally bad. (Fantasy. 8-12)