Magazine article Humanities

Time Travels

Magazine article Humanities

Time Travels

Article excerpt

Time Travels

What would the world look like if Napoleon had won the Battle of Waterloo? Everyone in Brooklyn would be speaking French and eating goat cheese on their pizzas. To prevent this catastrophe, three ten-year-old buddies from Brooklyn-joe, Sam, and Fred-travel back in time to ensure Napoleon's defeat.

The encounter with Napoleon is one episode in a new children's television series, Time Warp Trio, based on the books by John Scieszka. With support from NEH, WGBH has produced twenty-six episodes that begin July 9 on Discovery Kids on NBC, and will also air on the Discovery Kids Channel and public television.

In the shows, the three boys travel back and forth in time through a magic book Joe has received from his eccentric uncle. They ride on the Chisholm Trail and meet Cheyenne Chief Black Kettle, visit Mary Shelley and her friends in Switzerland as she begins her tale of Frankenstein, and travel one hundred years into the future where they meet their great granddaughters-Freddi, Samantha, and Jodiewho have inherited the magic book and are doing their own time traveling.

"The kids travel in far-ranging fashion," says executive producer Carol Greenwald. "They go to India during the Gupta Empire. They visit Shaolin monks in China. They learn about the mystery of Amelia Earhart. They get involved with a Maya ringball game. There is a little bit of peril there, as there is in all the shows, because if they lose, the penalty is pretty extreme: they get their heads cut off."

The premise of each adventure is that the magic book transports the kids to a new and often accidental destination. As they travel, they learn about history, whether it's Leif Eriksson's journey to North America or Leonardo da Vinci's invention of the alarm clock.

"We know that kids of this age are fascinated by all of the details," says Greenwald. The targeted audience is ages six to eleven. "So while the characters are visiting Leonardo da Vinci, they have to dodge garbage thrown out the window because they are in Italy and that's the way it was during the Renaissance. At the same time, they're learning about his codices and his interest in time. We enrich the stories by taking a lot of period detail and inserting it seamlessly into a great action-adventure plot."

To ensure historical accuracy, the series has a content adviser who works with a historian on the specifics.

"We have a show where the kids meet Genghis Khan as a young man right after his father is killed," Greenwald says. "Our director decided that he was going to check into how Genghis Khan actually ran his battles. …

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