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Animals in Time, Volume 1: Historical Empires & Civilizations Review by Karen WaideStorybook and Activity Book
Jaden & Christopher Rodriguez
Let’s Learn, Kids
P.O. Box 220026
Newhall, CA 9132
I had the chance to receive a couple of books from Let’s Learn, Kids, titled Animals in Time, Volume 1: Historical Empires & Civilizations. I thought these books would be a wonderful addition to our homeschool as we have been slowly making our way through history with our core curriculum these past two years. Not only have the children been learning some cool, new information, but they have been getting a bit of a review in what they have already learned while they travel with some friendly animal characters.
We received both the storybook written and illustrated by brothers Jaden and Christopher Rodriguez and the accompanying Activity Book. Both are softcover books. The story is 154 pages long and includes illustrations on at least every other page. The book also includes a Table of Contents plus information about the authors at the back of the book. The Activity Book is 161 pages in length, which includes an informational page and the Table of Contents.
This first volume of Animals in Time introduces the reader to each animal, one story or chapter at a time. There are 26 four to eight page A-Z animal adventure stories, starting with Amber the Ant and ending with Zerlock the Zebra. These animals all live in different lands and times, but they come together thanks to the powerful “Commandment Stone” which Amber found way back in Old Testament times. She lived on Mount Sinai during the time when Moses received the Ten Commandments. The first story is about her becoming the leader of her ant colony, an ant colony that begins living by the rules of the Ten Commandments. She then meets Barend the Bear, who happens to be a peaceful, yet timid bear, who also lives by these commandments. These two then discover a glowing shard of stone, and a caterpillar named Cora who had been ripped from her home in Greece by a bird. They decide to help her return to Greece, which is the start of their time traveling adventures, though they do not realize at first that they have traveled through time. The first hint that time travel has occurred was during the Cora the Caterpillar story, when we see two Grecian fishermen talking about the Romans calling the gods by different names. Our animal trio then find a map depicting Judah and Israel, which had not been around during the time of Moses. An astute reader would pick up on these hints as long as they knew their history, though younger children should catch on toward the end of the chapter where it states, “But she [Cora] noticed things looked different than they did before she’d gone away – almost as if she had jumped ahead in time.”
Amber and Barend remain together during the entire book. It takes them awhile to figure out they had traveled through time and exactly how they accomplished this feat. They eventually learn that all they must do is think about a specific time and place and the Commandment Stone will take them there, though at first the destinations are erratic, and they have no control. During the story, their main goal is making it back to their land and time, though they end up helping others along the way, and seeking help at times, such as when they lose the Commandment Stone or face persistent adversaries. New friends are made, some of whom travel with them, while others stay behind when they leave. Sometimes there is only a brief encounter while we read about the other animal’s story, and at other times they all have an adventure together. As the story goes on, different groups of the animals end up together, until toward the end of the book the entire crew find themselves together, learning what their main cause will be for the future.
Throughout the story the reader is bounced along with the animals from Mount Sinai, to Greece, to Alexandria, Egypt, to Rome, then they begin to travel further, to places such as England, China, Japan, Australia, and the Americas. We travel from way back in the time of Moses to as far ahead as 1877, with many times in between. Through these adventures we sometimes focus on notable events such as the Visigoths invading the Roman Empire, the Ottoman Turks attacking Constantinople, and an Aztec invasion of a Mexican city.
In addition to little nuggets of history trivia, the authors have included geography and science information, usually in the conversations between the animals. For example, you will find information about vascular plants, volcanoes, ocean zones, clouds, and the imaginary lines dividing the earth into zones.
Not only do the authors weave these bits of information into the story, but the reader can then use the Animals in Time Activity Book to expand their knowledge. Each story has six corresponding pages of fun activities which follow this pattern:
- Coloring page
- History/Civilization activity
- Animal facts, maze, and art
- “Tell Me About”
- Science & Geography
- Notebook page
The coloring page is a black and white copy of the drawing of the chapter’s animal.
A short paragraph or two of information related to the history or civilization focused on in the chapter is shared, then the child is to complete the simple activity. This may be decorating a picture, using a code to finish a sentence, using math to count arches or footsteps, or finding “hidden” images.
Animal facts, maze, and art
On the top of this page the child will find information about the animal featured in the chapter. Then there is a small maze usually shaped like the animal or the word for the animal, and a box that allows the child to get artistic in a way that relates to the animal or something related to the animal’s story.
“Tell Me About”
This page has four gray boxes in which children are to answer the questions related to the animal, or they may even be asked to draw something. Two of the most asked questions (on nearly every animal’s page) are “What do I eat?” and “What else do you know about me?” Other questions are related to such things as where the animal lives, what their personality is, habits of the animal, what they fear, or how they protect themselves. There is quite the variety of questions, the answers of which can usually be found in the Animal Facts section.
Science & Geography
On the top of the page the child will read a paragraph or two about a science topic, most likely the topic touched on in the chapter. There will also be a short activity to complete. Then there is a map on the bottom of the page which features the area the animals found themselves in during that chapter. The child will have to color and/or circle specific areas.
This page features lines for the child’s own writing, either fiction or nonfiction, along with a box for them to draw a picture.
How we used the books
After reading each chapter, the children then spent time using the Activity Book. I received permission to photocopy the Activity book pages in my home for the older girls. I let my youngest son use the actual book. I expected and received more detailed answers from my oldest girls (who are in fifth and sixth grade) than I did from my first and third graders. I believe the older girls found some of the activities a little easy, though I know they learned some new information, especially in the science lessons. Though some of the activities were a bit difficult for my youngest, I still think they offered just the right amount of challenge for him. So, from our experience, I would say that early elementary students would be the target age for these books. This took me a bit by surprise, as the front of the book suggests combining the books with a letter of the week approach. Then I realized, not everyone does letter of the week with their children when they are only three and four years old, as I did.
As we are slowly making our way through the story together, I did read ahead on my own to read the entire story. Animals in Time, Volume 1: Historical Empires & Civilizations is intriguing. I found it to be a neat concept for a story, and it is a wonderful adventure; however, there are some inconsistencies that make it hard to follow at times. That said, when I realized the authors were only nine and eleven years old when they wrote and illustrated these animal stories that make up the book, I was quite impressed. There is quite a lot of historical, geographical, and scientific information that they were able to weave into the story. I think it is a wonderful way to add fun learning into your homeschool day for elementary school children.
Animals in Time, Volume 1: Historical Empires & Civilizations by Jaden & Christopher Rodriguez is available from Let’s Learn, Kids! For $26.99. The Activity Book is listed as “Coming Soon.”
- Product review by Karen Waide, The Old Schoolhouse® Magazine, LLC, January 2019