Once again Wayne Thomas Batson and Marianne Hering's tell the tale of young cousins Beth and Patrick. This time, Patrick has a bad attitude about going to his grandmother's birthday party. Going means missing a ball game, which hardly seems fair to him. So, without permission, Patrick starts up the Imagination Station, looking for adventure. In trying to stop him, Beth ends up on board, too.
The machine takes them to a ship in the 19th century. At first, the cousins fear it's a pirate ship. After all, the men on board talk like pirates - and one even has a wooden leg. But they are actually on an English navy vessel anchored near Fiji. The trouble is, Fiji is a land of cannibals, and Toki, the leader of them all, isn't to be trusted.
But James Calvert, a missionary whose been teaching the Fijians about Christ, guides the cousins and the crew as they experience adventure after adventure. First, Toki brings a boat near the ship, and war is feared. Then a large storm comes and Patrick and a sailor fall into the sea. They drift to the island - but they aren't safe there; Toki is on the hunt for them. Beth sneaks into the rescue boat, but ends up falling into the ocean. Patrick confronts Toki about his lack of faith in Christ. Toki replies:
"I hate the teachings of [God]! Your God would be King and change our ways. He would make us weak with words like 'love your enemies.' I am king. I kill and eat my enemies."Yet when Toki finally admits he isn't all powerful and Patrick reminds him the Christian God will forgive him, something in Toki changes.
Toki sees Beth struggling in the sea, and throws a spear her direction. Thinking Toki means harm, one of the sailors shoots the Fijian king. But it turns out Toki was killing a stingray threatening Beth. The English sailors set to healing Toki. The warrior opens his eyes briefly, and Calvert prays with him. Toki promises that if God lets him live, he will never kill Christians again. "Do ye repent?" Calvert asks. "I repent," Toki says.
The Imagination Station reappears and Beth and Patrick go back home. There, their mentor Mr. Whittacker tells them more about Calvert:
"Not many people cared about telling the cannibal tribes about Jesus. But Calbert and other missionaries gave their lives to do it. There were tens of thousands of Fijian Christians when Calvert left Fiji. And the cannibalism had stopped...Mr. Calvert kept reaching out to [Toki]. That's what Jesus call us to do."Suddenly, sacrificing a ball game for his grandma's birthday party doesn't seem so awful to Patrick.
What I Like: As my 7 year old says, "This book is awesome!" Nearly every chapter is a cliff-hanger, the pace is quick, and the story is nothing if not adventurous. I appreciate that Beth and Patrick act like real kids who make mistakes. Both my daughter and I also enjoyed learning the interesting and important history outlined in the book; there are even several strong Christian themes woven in. Throughout, David Hohn's black and white illustrations (about a dozen of them), add interest.
What I Dislike: My only complaint is minor. At the back of the book there is a section offering facts about the real James Calvert. It ends by saying "For more info on James Calvert and Fiji, visit TheImaginationStation.com." But the website offers no such information. As I've noticed with other books in the series, the supplemental information provided on the website is inconsistent. Sometimes devotionals or other helpful material are offered and other times they are not - even if the book itself promises it.
Publishing Info: Tyndale; 2012; ISBN: 978-1589976740; paperback, 144 pgs., $4.99
Buy Now at Amazon for $4.99, or buy the Kindle version for $3.74
Or buy at ChristianBook.com for $4.49; the ebook is $4.99
Special Info: Read our other reviews of books in the Imagination Station series.