Wednesday, April 6, 2011
The Imagination Station
The Imagination Station is an impressive new series which I had a chance to preview the first two books. The books are called Voyage with the Vikings and Attack at the Arena by Marianne Hering and Paul McCusker. They are illustrated by David Hohn. They are about two young children, Cousins Beth and Patrick and their friendship with an inventor named Mr. Whittaker. Mr. Whittaker has invented a time machine called the Imagination Station. During his travels someone else is now able to communicate with Mr. Whittaker through the Imagination Station. This someone else is in need of help but not from Mr. Whittaker rather from Beth and Patrick. So begins Beth and Patrick's adventures traveling through time aboard the Imagination Station.
These books are sure to spark the imagination of young readers. I love the concept and how these stories layer Christian history into the story. I must confess that I have never been much of a history buff but after reading these two books I was online searching, reading and looking for more information about the subjects of these books. In addition to the history, the action, the adventure at the center of these books is solid Biblical teaching by example in how the characters of this book act in word and deed. Your children will be learning a variety of aspects in these books and having fun doing so. One of the many lessons that I took away from these reads is that God is in control. If we follow His will even when it makes no sense it will work out as He planned in the end. We just have to be willing to trust and follow Him. I’ve seen this happen in my life and really connected with the events of this story, how answers were revealed at the needed time. My children aren't old enough for these reads but I am looking forward to sharing with them. I know that they too will have their interest peaked in history and God's word when they do. This is a really fun series and I can't wait to read the rest of the books.
I received a copy of each book for the purpose of this review.
Imagination Station Blog Tour Q&A with Marianne Hering
1. What inspired you to write the Imagination Station series?
Paul (McCusker) had always wanted to write stories about the Imagination Station. When looking to do a kids’ series about it, we chose early elementary to introduce new readers to the Adventures in Odyssey world. We also wanted to touch on a group of kids that didn’t have many Christian books written for their level. There seemed to be a gap from picture books to later elementary readers.
2. The Imagination Station device is well-known to fans of the radio drama Adventures in Odyssey. Why did you and Paul decide to use it in a book series?
It lends itself to stand-alone adventures. It’s a fascinating device. Why wouldn’t he want to write about it? It allowed us to write about settings outside of Odyssey. We’d like some of the books to augment the history kids learn from public school textbooks or TV. The Imagination Station radio dramas are also among the most popular. We thought that kids would like them, that’s all!
3. How true to history are the books?
Now, this is a spoiler. Mr. Whittaker isn’t real. Neither are Patrick and Beth. Though they are named after Paul’s children. Patrick and Beth are his children’s middle names.
Most of the events are based on sagas, legends, or some sort of historical base—except for book 4. All the characters in the War of the Roses story are fictional. For plot purposes, I sped up the storytelling. For example, the events in the Kublai Khan story took place over months, not hours. Same with the Viking book. I wanted Leif to leave for the New World shortly after he brought back the gospel from Norway. In reality, a lot of time passed between the events. I did make some vocabulary exceptions. For example, Marco Polo was Venetian, but I called him Italian—a more familiar term for the readership. But the basic events of books 1 to 3 are true, and the War of the Roses did occur in England with Lords fighting their neighbors, etc. We really just wanted to write about the jousting. Paul did a lot great research for the jousting scene. I had to cut a lot of it, and that made me sad. On the website The ImaginationStation.com, I’ve listed what’s true and what’s exaggerated for each book. There are also nonfiction pages for the kids to read about Leif Ericsson and the other Christian heroes.
4. What do you hope kids will walk away with after reading Imagination Station?
A smile and a desire to learn more about history and faith in Jesus Christ.
5. Can you give us any “sneak peeks” into what we can expect in future books?
Book 5 is a Bible story, a familiar Bible story. The title is “Showdown with the Shepherd.” I think that’s a fairly strong clue. Book 6 is about Miles Standish and William Bradford and Native American relations. It centers on a certain holiday in November. That will end the first story arc. As for the next set of 6, that may depend on sales of the first set. (That’s a strong hint to readers to buy the books so we can keep developing the series.) Be sure to check out the click book for book 1 at TheImaginationStation.com. That way you can tell if these books will be at the right level for your kids.
About the Authors
Paul McCusker was given his first typewriter early in his childhood and hasn't stopped writing since. Paul has written over 300 half-hour audio episodes for Adventures in Odyssey and has also written 18 tie-in novels and two screenplays for the animated series. He was the producer for the series from 1992 to 1996 and the executive producer from 2000 to 2004. Paul is now Director of Creative Content at Focus on the Family.
Marianne Hering has written six children’s mystery books and more than 40 Bible phonics readers. Now a general book editor for Focus, she is passionate about developing a series for beginning readers.
***Don't forget to enter the giveaway to win your own copy of these books. Winner to be announced next week.***