Writer Jon Scieszka, creator of a time-traveling trio of boys who get to see history (and sometimes the future) firsthand, teams up with illustrator Adam McCauley to take readers along on an adventure-filled trip to ancient Japan in Sam Samurai, the tenth book in the Time Warp Trio series.
Time travel and trouble are ordinary fare for Joe, Sam, and Fred, whose reading material -- a deceptively ordinary-looking book given to Joe by his magician uncle -- keeps transporting them through time. Not only has the trio faced down fire-breathing dragons, black knights, evil Egyptian priests, wicked pirates, battling gladiators, and noisome Neanderthals; on one trip -- into the future, for a change -- they met their great-granddaughters and namesakes: Jo, Sammie, and Freddi. This time it's a bit of haiku that sends the boys tumbling through time from their 21st-century classroom to 17th-century Japan, where samurai warriors reign supreme.
As with previous adventures, the boys must focus on keeping their heads on straight -- in this case, in a most literal sense -- while they scramble to find the magical book that will allow them to return to their own time. Sword-wielding samurai, a faulty Auto Translator, and the boys' inability to adapt quickly enough to this strange new culture combine to make their journey a hair-raising adventure. But with a bit of fast thinking, a trick that passes for magic, and the help of their great-granddaughters, the boys will make it out in time to anticipate their next adventure.
The action is fast and furious, with wordplay and swordplay going hand in hand. An encounter with a samurai named Owattabutt (oh-what-a-butt) is guaranteed to generate giggles even as it creates a tense moment for the time-traveling trio. And as a side benefit, young readers will not only have fun while learning tidbits of history; they can also learn some Japanese, including the words for "noodle," "chopsticks," and the numbers from 1 to 10. (Beth Amos)