Isabel Soto, professor of history and anthropology, travels through time to observe history. In the two adventures I’m looking at today, she journeys through various periods in Egyptian history to study the pyramids and then travels back to 1700s and encounters pirates.
In each of her adventures, Isabel uses the W.I.S.P., The Worldwide Inter-dimensional Space/Time Portal, an “ancient stone with mysterious energy” to travel through time and space. The various people she encounters explain history, archeology, and more to her and she takes the information back to various professors and scientists. Although she sometimes appears in danger, as when she’s captured by pirates and loses her backpack with the W.I.S.P., there’s never any real sense of peril and everyone is generally friendly and eager to help her learn about the time period.
The art has a brisk, digital feel. It’s generic – most of Capstone’s graphic art looks the same – but it’s clear the historical details have been integrated into the pictures. The perspective is a little off and it can be disconcerting to see the various characters staring into corners or space while talking to each other. Some of the elements don’t integrate well, for example the pirates’ hair often looks oddly disconnected or added on over the artwork.
As an adult reader, I found these adventures annoyingly illogical and the history sanitized. There’s no explanation of how Isabel Soto can immediately communicate with everyone she meets, or why nobody is surprised to see a woman in jeans and a garish jacket show up out of nowhere. Almost everyone she meets is eager to offer her information, from a disgraced pirate to Imhotep, “King Djoser’s chancellor, high priest, and chief architect” who greets the arrival of Isabel Soto (in the aforementioned clothes) with a cheery “Can I help you?” There’s never any issues with Soto being a woman (and wearing pants) and even the pirates’ threats feel half-hearted. Also, Isabel Soto is supposed to have degrees in history and anthropology and at least one must be a PhD since she’s listed as “Dr. Isabel ‘Izzy’ Soto” but she requires other scientists, professors, and random people throughout history to give her the most basic of information about various times in history. Until I read the back matter, I had assumed she was a clueless teenager learning about history. There’s not really any plot – just the oddly uninformed Isabel Soto wandering around in history.
However, kids who are interested in history don’t seem to care about these aspects and eagerly gulp down many of these books. They enjoy the thin veneer of exciting adventure spread over sizable chunks of facts. There are a couple fans of this series at my library and they have told me they are “interesting” and “easy to read.” If you have young patrons who want readable graphic novels about history or if you have parents clamoring for educational graphic novels consider adding this series to your collection. I wouldn’t pay the $25-30 price for the library bound volumes, but it’s available in paperback and Capstone’s paperbacks are generally sturdy and have a good shelf life.
Isabel Soto Adventures: Egypt’s mysterious pyramids
Isabel Soto Adventures: Captured by pirates!
by Agnieszka Biskup
Art by Roger Stewart
Publisher Age Rating: RL 3-4 (reading level grade 3-4)