Word Travelers and the Taj Mahal Mystery

Sourcebooks Explore. (Word Travelers). Oct. 2021. 128p. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9781728240886; pap. $5.99. ISBN 9781728222059.
Gr 1-4–When Eddie and Molly-Jean discover an old book of etymology, they embark on a magical and educational adventure. After looking up the word “pajamas,” the Awesome Enchanted Book (AEB) whisks the children away to India, the country of the word’s origins. There they meet a boy searching for a lost family treasure to rebuild his school. What follows is a fast-paced mystery complete with a series of hidden clues, secret passageways, and even a dastardly moustache-twirling villain. Haldar, coauthor of P is for Pterodactyl and No Reading Allowed, brings his humor and love of wordplay to this first entry of a new early chapter book series. The premise is reminiscent of Mary Pope Osborne’s “Magic Tree House” series and will likely appeal to its fans, as it contains the same mix of fantasy, adventure, and cultural discovery. Etymology is the distinctive feature here, and its importance is reflected in every part of the text. Bold words throughout the book can be found in the glossary, with entries containing pronunciation, definition, and origin. The main characters must learn about words to find the treasure, and in doing so they discover facts about Indian culture and its influence on the English language. The cultural awareness implicit in the book’s themes is reflected in the diversity of its characters as portrayed in both text and illustrations. Rawat’s rounded comic artwork enhances both the humorous tone of the writing and its accessibility for young readers. The work as a whole feels very child centered, and is likely to appeal to a broad range of readers. Eddie is white with red hair, and Molly-Jean has light brown skin and curly brown hair.
VERDICT This winning series opener is full of fun and facts, and is recommended for first purchase.

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