I've mentioned before that I love finding new Christian books that I can share with the children. It's even more exciting when the books fit in well with what we are learning in our lessons. I was amazed by the perfect timing for the review of these two books from Worthy Kids/Ideals. We received the first two books in a new series called, The Secret of the Hidden Scrolls by M. J. Thomas.
The first book is titled, The Secret of the Hidden Scrolls: The Beginning (Book #1). This book focuses on the very beginning of time, or the seven days of creation, which we learned about during our first week of school. The second book is titled, The Secret of the Hidden Scrolls: Race to the Ark (Book #2). This book focuses on Noah's Ark, which we learned about during our second week of school.
This series was created after the author discovered he couldn't find anything suitable for his son to read that would teach him about the Bible in a fun and imaginative way. He was looking for books that were suitable for young readers in the 6-9 year old age range. I have to say, the author's first two books in The Secret of the Hidden Scrolls series seem to fit the bill. The books are just over 100 pages in length, and they have appealed to all of my children, who range in age from 5-10.
Let's delve into the books a bit:
The main characters of the series are named after the author's family members. There is nine year old Peter, who is named after the author's son, and ten year old Mary, named after the author's niece. Even the dog Hank is named after the family dog. The other prominent, recurring characters (so far) are Great-Uncle Solomon, the angel Michael, and Satan.
The first book begins with Peter, Mary, and Hank being dropped off at their great-uncle's house while their parents (who we never meet) take off for Africa, for an unexplained journey. All we know is that the children will be with their great-uncle for a whole month, and they are not looking forward to it. Fortunately, what appeared like it was going to be a boring, uneventful month, soon became a wonderful opportunity for adventure. Their great-uncle is an archaeologist, and it seems he found some mysterious scrolls on one of his expeditions. Until now, no one has been able to open them, so he wasn't sure what was in them or what they could do. All he knew was what his guide had told him about the scrolls:
That very first night the children hear a lion's roar and are drawn to the library where they discover a secret room which contains the scrolls in question. The children accidently break the wax seal on one of the scrolls and find themselves transported through time to the beginning of the world.
Thus begins their amazing adventure. However, all isn't rainbows and roses. Though they get to experience some great events, they discover there are rules to follow and a deadline they need to meet. This is explained to them by the angel Michael. They only have seven days to solve the mystery of the scroll or they will be stuck back in time forever. The scroll is written in Hebrew, and they need to figure out what it says, using clues they come across along the way. They also need to remember not to tell anyone they are from the future, plus they can't try to change history.
In this first book they find themselves experiencing what the dark void might have been like before God created the world. They get to experience light without the sun, moon, or stars. They find themselves swimming non-stop until they are saved by Michael in a small boat. They have to go without food until God creates plant life on day three. And then they get to enjoy their time with the animals God creates. They spend time swimming with dolphins, riding on rhinos and elephants, and chasing after a monkey who ran off with their scroll. Their biggest struggle comes when they end up face to face with Satan in the form of the snake.
They are almost drawn in by his lies, but quickly realize they shouldn't trust him. Then they are almost killed before Michael comes by to save the day. Finally, right before solving the message of the scroll and returning to the present day, they get to see God create Adam and Eve.
In the second book, three days have passed in the present. They again hear the lion's roar and find themselves transported to the time of Noah, this time with a few more supplies (but oops, no food). They arrive outside a walled city and experience firsthand the wickedness of that time. Unlike the first book, there are many more people to interact with now. They discover that there is only one rule in this city. People do whatever they want, including lying, cheating and stealing, but the "Dark Ruler" will not allow anyone to use the word "God." While in the city they come face to face with trouble in the form of a couple of local boys named Jakar and Darfus, plus their wolf named Shadow. Thankfully, between Mary's karate lessons, a hatchet Peter found in the bag, Hank's help, a sudden dust storm, and the city gate slamming shut behind them, they are able to get away.
They soon discover both God and the angel Michael played a role in helping them escape from the boys and Shadow. After a scary night in the tent they brought along, they find their way to where Noah and his family have built the ark. They help get the animals into the ark, even offering advice along the way. While they are happy to be able to help, they also find that there are some issues they would prefer to not deal with, such as cleaning up after the animals and dealing with escaping animals. But worst of all, they find themselves again coming face to face with Satan, who the people know as the "Dark Ruler" who lives in the Temple of the Snake.
There is a lot more suspense in this second book. Peter and Mary end up having to face Jakar, Darfus, and Shadow two times. Plus Satan realizes that they are the same children he faced during the creation week. They are thrown into the dungeon and almost don't get out to help fix the ark. I'm assuming Satan is going to show up in different forms throughout this series, becoming quite the adversary for Peter and Mary. We see that he is present in the world, trying to interfere in God's plans. Along with this, it was trickier for them to solve the scroll as there were double the number of words. Let's put it this way, they cut it awfully close.
The messages in the scrolls are great lessons for the reader to learn. In book one we learn that "God Created Everything." And in book two we are reminded to "Trust God, He Will Rescue You." Throughout their adventures it is impressed upon the children that God is with them.
As the children solve the mystery of the scrolls the wax seals turn into shining medallions. So far they have collected two, and we can't wait to see what other ones they will be adding to their collection as the series progresses.
I love time travel stories, which was one of the reasons I was hoping to review these books. The thing is, because I am a fan of such stories, I noticed right away that Peter and Mary interact a bit too much with other characters. Especially when one of their rules is to not change the future. Not that they are going out of their way to change things. However, I thought it was sort of silly that Noah had to ask them how to organize the animals on the ark as if he didn't know what he was doing. And Peter "invented" a wheelbarrow to help clean up after the animals. To me, this would be "changing" the future.
The Bible accounts are kept pretty true to the real stories, with some creative license thrown in to create a world that Peter and Mary can interact with. As we read, we would discuss some of the aspects that weren't quite accurate. It really helped that we had been reading the Bible accounts around the same time we were reading these books. That way the children knew what the Bible said, and could see where the author was changing things up. We enjoyed seeing the illustration of the walled city which had a pyramid with the temple on top, as we have been learning about them. Though we learned about these cities as a part of our study of civilizations after the flood, I would imagine these types of cities would have been built prior to the flood as well, and the descendents of Noah would have patterned their cities after what they knew from the past.
I do realize there isn't a lot of detail regarding how life would have been during the time of Noah, beyond the fact that wickedness was running rampant. So, when people create stories about this time period, they have to use their imaginations. I just make sure my children understand that we don't really know these details and we are reading a book of fiction. For instance, we know Satan works in this world, but he probably wasn't a cloaked figure residing in a temple in a city.
Now, the one point I really felt needed to be brought up was something I realized just this morning. According to this story, Noah was brothers with Jubal and Tubal Cain, the latter was even in the story. However, that didn't seem quite accurate to me, so I sat down and wrote out the genealogies from Genesis 4 and 5. Though Noah and Tubal Cain both have fathers named Lamech, they are not the same Lamech. Noah's lineage goes back to Seth, while Tubal Cain would be a direct descendant of Cain, Seth's older brother. I do appreciate that the author was trying to include details from the Bible to make the story more authentic, but this seems like quite the oversight.
Regardless, we really have enjoyed reading The Secret of the Hidden Scrolls books. I allowed Tabitha to read them on her own first, but I was then reading them aloud to all the children. We would read a chapter at a time, sometimes two a day as we would read the books during our school storytime and at bedtime. Amelia was also supposed to take them and read them independently, but she was in the middle of another book, so Hannah took off with them. At first I wasn't sure if she would be ready for them, but she did a great job reading them. Even Harold tried, but he is still a bit young. Amelia has finally started reading the first book. I like for them to read them independently and also hear them, that way they may catch details they may not have caught on their first exposure to the story.
I would say that the age range of 6-9 years old is quite appropriate for independent reading. Older children can most assuredly enjoy the story, though it is definitely a quick read. And younger children should enjoy the adventure being read to them.
I had the girls write the following book reports so they could share a bit about these stories. Harold even drew a picture of his favorite scene.
I can definitely recommend these first two books in The Secret of the Hidden Scrolls series. You just need to make sure your children are aware that they are fictionalized stories of true accounts in the Bible. Read them with your children, or prior to them reading them, so you can be aware of what they are going to be reading. Use them as an opportunity to delve into the biblical stories together. I love that the author includes a section in the back of the book that lists the Bible passages where these stories can be found. Figure out what was different and what could have been the same. But most of all, focus on the important points of the stories. God is a part of this world, he created everything and he is to be trusted. It is quite reassuring to know that God loves us so much and he can rescue us if we call on him.
Don't forget to click on the banner below to see what my fellow Crew Mates had to say about these books.