An odd item found in a flea-market suitcase sends two children back to days of yore in this series opener aimed at fledgling chapter-book readers.
The suitcase, plainly a MacGuffin, contains a number of seemingly random objects and a remote-control thingy—and as soon as bookish Chase picks up what he thinks is a doorknob with a dragon’s head, he and his camera-toting little sister, Ava, find themselves in a medieval slops closet overhearing a conversation between two knights about a plot against King Arthur. The “doorknob,” it turns out, is actually the hilt of Excalibur, and only finding some way to magically repair the sword can save the king from an assassin’s attack. Writing in present tense, Mass moves the plot along smartly to a climax featuring some brisk, if bloodless, swordplay (her Arthur is more into disarming his opponents than carving them up), then has Ava push a button on the remote to send the young siblings back home. The “time jumpers” billing is deceptive as, though Chase frets about changing the future, neither the narrative nor Vidal’s frequent grayscale illustrations make much effort to place the episode in a true historical setting. The author tucks in a fart joke early on but never follows it up and, in a clumsy effort to inject a bit of suspense, trots in a mysterious, surly villain with differently colored eyes who is after the suitcase. Characters are default white.
An obvious—and bland—riff on the Magic Treehouse series. (review questions) (Fantasy. 6-9)