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Read to investigate: 3 new stories in The Time Detectives series

January 17, 2022 by Nóra Wünsch-Nagy

The idea of time travel fascinates all of us. It gives us the opportunity to explore new worlds and imagine how we would live under completely different circumstances. This is exactly what happens in The Time Detective series. We join two friends, Liam and Rose in their unexpected journeys to the past and future. The fun twist in the stories is that none of their modern-day devices work. Can our students imagine such a situation at all? Liam and Rose have to deal with this and lots of  harder tasks while they solve mysteries and fight to survive as they travel through time.



Each story was written by Martyn Hobbs and illustrated by Francesca Protopapa.

You already know Martyn’s Westbourne Kids Graphic Novel series.

Francesca has also illustrated To the Lighthouse, Daisy Miller, The Albatross as well as the first three titles in The Time Detectives series.

The potential of the stories

Apart from building vocabulary and practising grammar structures, students improve their reading, listening, writing, speaking and research skills. Also, they practise noticing and taking notes, both essential life and study skills.

Not only are these stories exciting and fun to read, they also contribute to language and subject knowledge development in an engaging and fun way. The context of the stories provide excellent opportunities for CLIL-style projects. More precisely, each story creates a learning pathway both in the English language and a host of curricular subjects such as History, Science, Geography, Cultural Studies. Let’s see how the structure of the readers make such learning happen and what the topics of the three latest titles in the series are.

Books that support CLIL projects

Each book is structured in the same way to scaffold language learning and CLIL projects. 

The books clearly show the students the necessary background knowledge to understand the stories both contextually and linguistically. 


At the beginning of each book, there’s a 2-page Guidebook which sets the scene and gives information on the subject and context of the story. 

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The Roman Army Guidebook page in The Other Side. © Helbling Languages

Let’s Talk About

These pages focus on a CLIL-relevant topic, getting the students thinking about the main theme of the story thereby activating prior knowledge.

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Time Travel Let's Talk About page in Out of the Maze. © Helbling Languages


History Detectives

After the story, there is a 2-page History Detectives spread that explores the historical context and draws links to the present. Making such comparisons and connections helps students improve their analytical, reasoning and overall critical thinking skills while underlying the relevance of the themes treated.

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History Detectives page in The Golden Man. ©  Helbling Languages


The ‘classic’ reader features

Character pages, Before and After Reading activities, Cambridge English Exam preparation, Exit Test, Project

These pages can be found in each Helbling Reader. They provide language preparation exercises before, and consolidation exercises after, the story. The character pages are double-page spreads that introduce the main characters. The projects expand the story by giving more starting points for discussions and research. 

Standard features

Poster Page, Investigate boxes, Reflection boxes, Glossary and Time Detective Notebook

The Poster Page has classroom activities and linked activities on Helbling e-zone.

The Investigate boxes invite students to research and talk about interesting subject-related questions and write their findings in the free Time Detective Notebook that is downloadable from Helbling e-zone.

The Reflection boxes can be found in every Helbling Reader. They provide questions for the students to make personal connections or explore an aspect of the story.

The glossaries give immediate help with difficult words.

All these features contribute to analytical and critical reading skills development, both fundamental in future work and academic settings. This way, although the students might not notice it, the books prepare them for real-life reading tasks.

The topics in the three new titles

Each new title is packed with engaging topics that make curricular links with other subjects. In fact, the books contain four main focus areas: subject-related pages about History, Geography, Science, and much more; language work; independent research; and, of course, the story itself.

We recommend that you work on the introductory Guidebook and Let’s talk about pages in class. Building background knowledge in English makes the stories more accessible and, as a result, enjoyable. Your students might have heard about some of the content in their first language, but it is important to discuss topics in English. It is an essential skill that needs to be practised.

The students work on the Investigate boxes on their own,  do remind them to check these boxes as they are reading. Keeping the Time Detective Notebook is a bit like keeping a reading journal. 

Each title explores a specific time in history and makes links with our current time. The extra materials in the books support learning and thinking about these connections. Below we have collected the main topics in the three new titles.

The Other Side - Level 1/A1

When a total eclipse sends Liam and Rose back in time, they find themselves lost in a cold, dark and misty place… alone. Then Liam meets a Roman soldier called Remi, and Rose wakes up in Moya’s house in a small village.
Where are they? Can they find each other? And why does everyone call Rose, ‘Rose of the Moon’? Join Liam and Rose, the ‘Time Detectives’, on their adventure in Roman Britain.

Topics in the reader:

  • Roman Britain - History link, a bit like a game of discovery
  • The Roman Army
  • Who are the Picts?
  • Writing on the Wall
  • Picts and Romans

The Golden Man - Level 2/A1/A2

Liam and Rose can travel in time. When they find themselves in a tropical rainforest on the edge of a perfect beach, they don’t know if they are in the past or the future. Then they meet Diamond Jack and lots of other dangerous-looking men.
Are they pirates? And who is the mysterious Sir Walter? Together, can they discover the true story of the Golden Man? Join Liam and Rose, the ‘Time Detectives’, on an expedition to find El Dorado.

Topics in the reader:

  • A Quick Guide to Rainforests
  • Colonisation
  • The Orinoco River
  • The Real El Dorado
  • A Sailor’s Life

Out of the Maze - Level 3/A2

Liam and Rose fall through time and space once more. This time they are trapped in the middle of a huge maze, under a hot sun, and a terrible monster is looking for them.
What happens when the two friends come face-to-face with the Minotaur? And what is the mystery behind Daedalus, the man who created the maze? Join Liam and Rose, the ‘Time Detectives’, as they try to tell myth from reality on the island of Crete.

Topics in the reader:

  • The Mysterious Minoans
  • Time Travel from science to science fiction
  • The History of Flight
  • From Myth to Reality

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