The great folks at Smithsonian Books have begun a new series of graphic novels for the 9-12 age range called Secret Smithsonian Adventures. The first book in the series, The Wrong Wrights by Chris Kientz and Steve Hockensmith, and illustrated by Lee Nielsen, comes out this week, and I can tell you that it is an entertaining read. Here’s my slightly spoiler-y recap, but I’ll refrain from spoiling the really important stuff.
Four elementary-aged kids win the Science Fair Mystery Trip Competition and get to go to the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum in Washington, D.C. Eric Silbert, one of the kids, had earned his place on the trip by building a working model of the Wright Flyer, originally built by the Wright brothers. Eric was a huge fan of All Things Airplane. Strange things start happening to the kids a while after they arrive at the museum, however. But only to them. No one else is affected.
These strange things revolve around the Wright brothers, airplanes, and history. And it’s all tied into the Smithsonian somehow. The timeline is broken, and it’s up to the kids to fix it. Can they help the Wright brothers back on their path to furthering the cause of the airplane? Or is all hope lost, and are we destined to fly in dirigibles instead?
This is totally the type of comic book or graphic novel I would have loved as a kid. There’s a bit of mystery, time travel (I’m a sucker for anything involving time travel), smart kids, museums, and history. Through the 64-page story, readers are treated to some little-known background information about the Wright brothers’ careers including a lot of post-Kitty Hawk detail and information about the Wrights’ sister, Katharine, who gets to help play the hero in this version of events. Though the story is obviously fictional–and includes plenty of artistic license with the supporting characters, all real people–it all gets wrapped up on the final page with a review of what actually happened in history, along with setting things up for more books in the Secret Smithsonian Adventures series. The next book will be called Claws and Effect, will revolve around dinosaurs, and should be out in autumn. It seems that these four kids will take us on more tours of Smithsonian museums in their efforts to put things right.
The Wrong Wrights comes out February 23 ($6.47 on Amazon right now) and will be a hit for any late elementary kid (or their parents). A great book to read together, this one leaves you with a newfound passion for history.
Note: I received a galley of this book for review purposes.