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Book Review: Wright On Time: Arizona, Book 1 by Lisa M. Cotrell-Bentley, Illustrated by Tanja Bauerle

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Meet the Wrights – a fictional family of homeschoolers exploring the U.S.A. by RV as they ‘road-school’ their way across the nation. Wright On Time: Arizona, the first in the series, finds author Lisa M. Cotrell-Bentley seamlessly blending mystery, suspense, and adventure with a thoroughly educational exploration of cave rock formations, bat habits, minerals, desert climate, acoustics and much more.

Think the Magic Schoolbus series of educational chapter books, but for homeschoolers, and much better. Rather than presenting educational facts in ‘chunks’ or obviously lecture-style explanations, learning opportunities are woven into the dialogue, interests, and discoveries of the characters. As a matter of fact, the very writing style mirrors the philosophies of the delight-driven, lifestyle led method of education that the Wright’s use to much success with their children.

With the boy/girl gender split in the Wright family, there’s a good balance of themes and interests to appeal to both groups of readers. Aidan, the family’s exuberant seven-year-old, can’t wait to see the bats he hopes to find deep within the desert cave. Nadia, a research-driven 11-year-old, is fascinated by the prospect of mining for minerals and hopes to find some malachite (her favorite).

In keeping with the characters' ages, children between six and 12 will likely be the most drawn to the series, but our entire family enjoyed Arizona as a read-aloud — even my three-year-old and my husband were kept engaged by the short, fast-moving chapters and cliff-hanger chapter endings that kept the pages flying. This is the first book my six-year-old has wanted to savor: “Let’s only read it every few days Mommy. This book is so exciting, and when we only read a little at a time – it’s even more exciting!”

From a design perspective, the Wright on Time series has it all together. Bright, full-color cover features wonder-filled artwork from illustrator Tanja Bauerle who also supplies the opening illustration for each chapter. It was her work on the interior title page, and the beautiful drawings on the Arizona reference page and map that the book opens with that I knew I was in for a treat.

I don’t judge books by their covers, but the care and detail that have been given to producing the flagship title of the series are much appreciated. The interior cream-colored pages that make reading easier for children, the careful layout, the glossary, the facts about Arizona — it all adds to what is already an exciting, suspense-filled story.

With 50 books planned for the series (one for each state), we’re looking forward to following the Wright family across America in their road-schooling adventures. In fact, I’m hoping they might continue their journey by taking a quick trip across the border to explore the provinces of Canada! We denizens of the far white North can always hope.

If you’re homeschoooling, you won’t want to miss this new series. In the words of our oldest, it’s, “…perfectly great, and fantastically perfect.” Or as Aidan would say, “Freaky Cool!”

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