Our family had the great privilege, thanks to the Homeschool Review Crew, of reviewing a couple of wonderful, biblical, time-travel books for elementary aged children. These books, from Worthy Kids, an imprint of Hachette Book Group, are the third and fourth installments of a series we started reading a year and a half ago. When we were first introduced to The Secret of the Hidden Scrolls series back in the fall of 2017 (again thanks to being on the Crew), the children and I had just started learning about Creation and the time period from the beginning of the book of Genesis. Needless to say, books where the main characters go back in time first to the creation week, and then to the time of Noah, fit in perfectly with our lessons. Of course, we are way beyond that time in our studies now, but when this opportunity presented itself, I had to jump at the chance to allow Hannah to read the next books, as she had really fallen in love with them.
This book series is written by M.J. Thomas whose son just happens to share the name of the one main character, Peter. Peter's sister in the book is named after Mr. Thomas's niece, Mary. And, as you can see by the picture, they also have a dog. His name is Hank, and he is named after the author's dog. Mr. Thomas began writing this series because he wanted a way to teach his son about the Bible in a fun and imaginative way while remaining biblically accurate. Unfortunately he couldn't find one to his liking, so he decided to create his own.
When we were first introduced to Peter and Mary they were being dropped off at their Great-Uncle Solomon's house for a month while their parents went on a trip. At first the children, especially Peter, weren't thrilled with this idea, that is until they realized there were adventures in store for them thanks to their Great-Uncle Solomon being an archeologist, and not just any archeologist, but one who has some really cool scrolls hidden away in a secret room. These scrolls are what take them on their time-travel adventures.
Though we get the full story of how this originally plays out in the first book, we are reminded of it in the prologue of the subsequent books. And we again get to read the legend behind the adventures:
When the children hear the lion's roar, they are to hurry to their great-uncle's library, and make their way to the secret room where he stores the scrolls. As they break the seal and unroll the scroll they are instantaneously transported to a pivotal point in history. They then have a certain number of days to solve the mystery of the scroll, translating the words into English, and revealing a powerful message. In the first two books they learned that "God Created Everything," and were reminded to "Trust God, He Will Rescue You." In addition to making sure to solve the message in the required time or risk getting stuck in the past, they also have to remember not to tell anyone where or when they are from or change anything in the past. They are reminded of these important rules by the angel Michael, who is a main character who comes to their aid throughout the series.
Now that I have shared a bit about the series, let's take a closer look at the two books we received for review.
In this story, Peter, Mary, and Hank are transported back to the time right before the ten plagues that ravaged Ancient Egypt because of the Pharaoh's refusal to let God's people go. Their adventure begins with a visit to a pyramid where they satisfy their curiosity and open a sarcophagus, which they had been tempted to do in their great-uncle's house (doesn't every archeologist keep dead bodies in their secret rooms?). They are chased from the tomb by a black panther and find themselves being rescued from the Nile River by a girl named Shephara, who they later learn is a princess. By sneaking around with the princess, they get to overhear Moses confronting Pharaoh as he demands that he let the Israelites go, and then get to see him unleash some of the plagues. They also discover that Pharoah has magicians of his own who attempt to copy the miraculous workings of God, one of whom is the other recurring character in this series, Satan, this time called The Great Magician.
They spend some time with Shephara, enjoying the comfort of the palace as best they could while enduring some of the plagues and trying to avoid the Great Magician. Then they find themselves having to flee into the desert. They find their way to Goshen and God's people, just in time to stay safe from the final plague and experience the first Passover. They are then able to join the Israelites on their journey to the Red Sea where God has Moses part the waters. It is here that they finally solve the secret of their scroll, just in the nick of time.
As the fourth book begins we discover that two days have passed since our adventurers returned from ancient Egypt. While trying to find their Great-Uncle Solomon, the children discover a new room, which leads to their great-uncle revealing another secret about himself. They learn that he used to be a spy. Of course this intrigues the children, and they want to learn to be spies as well, which is a perfect lead-in to a story where they get to meet actual spies back in Bible times.
Right after equipping themselves with some spy-gear, the children hear the lion's roar and head for their next adventure. They end up in the middle of the desert again, though this time they are surrounded by what appears to be a large tent. They discover they are in the Tabernacle, in the midst of the Israelite's camp. At first they are believed to by spies, until Mary shares the secret name of God proving they are on God's side.
The children get to meet Joshua, and they learn the Israelites have been wandering in the wilderness for 40 years since the last time they saw them, and they are preparing to cross the Jordan River to enter the Promised Land. Peter and Mary learn that the city of Jericho needs to be conquered, but Joshua is waiting for God's instructions. Of course, the children find themselves on another adventure, as they notice two men sneaking out of camp and decide to follow who they feel are spies.
Peter, Mary, and Hank find themselves in Jericho, first helping a little girl who is being bullied, and then trying to find a place to hide from Satan, this time appearing as a man in black.
They meet up with the spies Caleb and Phinehas, and find themselves being hidden by Rahab before being lowered out of her window along with the spies.
Of course, this isn't the end of their adventure as they have to hide out in the mountains, avoiding guards and worrying about the fate of Hank, and then join in with the Israelites as they march around Jericho multiple times. And on top of that, they find themselves in another run-in with Satan, who recognizes them as the children he has met in the past. They find themselves back inside Jericho right before the walls come tumbling down, but they again solve the secret of the scroll right before disaster strikes.
And thankfully, Michael was there to help.
Once the children return home safely, they share their adventure with their great-uncle, who then shares the rest of the story from the Bible (as he does every time).
This time around, we didn't have time in our day for me to read these aloud to all the children. So, I had Tabitha read them first, knowing she could zing through them in an hour or so. Then I had Hannah read them because I knew how much she loved going back and rereading the first two. Finally, I took them aside to read them. I did have to borrow book four from Hannah as she hadn't quite finished it, as it takes her 2-3 days to read them.
We really enjoyed these new adventures, though again I question the fact that Peter and Mary are so involved with the people in the past, when they aren't supposed to be changing events that happen. Maybe I've just seen too many sci-fi stories where the characters mess up the "time continuum" just be being involved at all, instead of remaining in "observation" mode. This does seem to happen more in Journey to Jericho as we see Peter and Mary helping a girl being bullied, Hank running off the soldiers, and Peter and Mary then running off to find Rahab to make sure she and her family are where they are supposed to be before the Israelites blow the horns to bring down the walls of Jericho. It also concerned me that the author had Peter and Mary arrive in the past inside the Tabernacle when only priests are supposed to enter. If these adventures are supposed to be teaching the children about God, I wouldn't think He would appreciate His law being broken.
Don't get me wrong, we love these books. These are just things that popped into my mind as I was reading. Funnily enough, when I asked the girls if they had a favorite out of the two, Tabitha said she prefered Journey to Jericho, as do I. I think it might have to do with the fact that there is more action in the story, plus the whole "spy" stuff. Hannah on the other hand prefers The Great Escape. Her favorite part is when they first meet Midnight, the black panther. She likes that these books tell about the Bible. Her favorite part from Journey to Jericho is when they first decide they want to be spies.
In addition to enjoying the actual story which allows children to spend a short amount of time interacting with people from the past, I appreciate that the author includes the Great-Uncle Solomon reading the actual story from the Bible to Peter and Mary. Additionally, at the conclusion of the book, the author lists the Bible passages where you can find the events that took place in the story. To me, it is so important that the reader is directed to read the true story from God's word. Yes, the author takes some creative license in order to tell his stories, but he keeps it true to the story as found in the Bible.
As I did a year and a half ago, I find the recommended age of 6-9 to be quite appropriate. I did find that Tabitha isn't quite as interested in them as she was then, now that she is 12. These books are perfect for Hannah, and I am thinking Harold would do well with them now. He is just in the middle of reading something else, so I didn't want him to interrupt that reading. I will have him read these books when he is done with his others.
If you have children who love stories filled with adventure, and you want them to learn more about the Bible, I would highly recommend these books. Just make sure they understand they are technically fiction based on true events.
Don't forget to click on the banner below to see what my fellow Crew Mates had to say about these wonderful books!