Plugged In exists to shine a light on the world of popular entertainment while giving you and your family the essential tools you need to understand, navigate and impact the culture in which we live. Through reviews, articles and discussions, we want to spark intellectual thought, spiritual growth and a desire to follow the command of Colossians 2:8: "See to it that no one takes you captive through hollow and deceptive philosophy, which depends on human tradition and the basic principles of this world rather than on Christ."


Family uses Plugged In as a ‘significant compass’

"I am at a loss for words to adequately express how much it means to my husband and me to know that there is an organization like Focus that is rooting for us. Just today I was reading Psalm 37 and thinking about how your ministry provides ways to 'dwell in the land and enjoy safe pasture.' We have two teenagers and an 8-year-old in our household...Plugged In has become a significant compass for our family. All three of our kids are dedicated to their walk with Christ but they still encounter challenges. Thanks for all of your research and persistence in helping us navigate through stormy waters."

Plugged In helps college student stand-up for his belief

"Thanks for the great job you do in posting movie and television reviews online. I’m a college freshman and I recently had a confrontational disagreement with my English professor regarding an R-rated film. It is her favorite movie and she wanted to show it in class. I went to your Web site to research the film’s content. Although I had not seen the movie myself, I was able to make an educated argument against it based on the concerns you outlined. The prof said that she was impressed by my stand and decided to poll the whole class and give us a choice. We overwhelmingly voted to watch a G-rated movie instead! I’ve learned that I can trust your site and I will be using it a lot in the future.”

Plugged In brings ‘Sanity and Order’ to Non-believer

“Even though I don’t consider myself a Christian, I find your Plugged In Web site useful and thought-provoking. No one reviews movies like you do. Instead of being judgmental, you put entertainment ‘on trial.’ After presenting the evidence, you allow the jury of your readers to decide for themselves what they should do. In my opinion, you bring sanity and order to the wild world of modern day entertainment. Keep up the good work!”

Mom thinks Plugged In is the ‘BEST Christian media review site’

"Our family doesn't go to the movies until we go online and check out your assessment of a given film. I think this is the BEST Christian media review website that I've found, and I recommend it to my family and friends. Keep up the good work!"


Our hope is that whether you're a parent, youth leader or teen, the information and tools at Plugged In will help you and your family make appropriate media decisions. We are privileged to do the work we do, and are continually thankful for the generosity and support from you, our loyal readers, listeners and friends.

We hope this review was both interesting and useful. Please share it with family and friends who would benefit from it as well.

Book Review

This historical fiction novel by Esther Wood Brady is published by Yearling, an imprint of Random House Children's Books, a division of Random House Inc., and is written for kids ages 8 to 12. The age range reflects readability and not necessarily content appropriateness.

Positive Elements

Spiritual Content

Sexual Content

Violent Content

Crude or Profane Language

Drug and Alcohol Content

Other Negative Elements


Pro-social Content

Objectionable Content

Summary Advisory

Plot Summary

After her father dies in the Revolutionary War, 10-year-old Ellen Toliver and her mother move to New York to live with Grandfather. Grandfather is a wigmaker, and as Ellen learns by mistake, a patriot spy. He has Ellen's mother bake a snuff box containing a message for George Washington into a loaf of bread. The bread will have to change hands several times before it gets to Washington, so Grandfather must deliver it quickly to his contact, Mr. Shannon. But when Grandfather hurts his leg, he realizes he will be unable to cross the river to New Jersey and get the bread to Mr. Shannon's Jolly Fox Tavern. He asks Ellen to make the delivery in his place.

Before moving to Grandfather's town, Ellen has lived a quiet life. In New York, she's afraid of many things, such as the Redcoats and a girl named Dicey who bullies her at the neighborhood water pump. Ellen isn't convinced she can handle Grandfather's request. But he reminds her that people overcome fear by doing things they think they can't.

Despite Mother's concerns, Ellen agrees to carry the message in the bread. Mother dresses her in clothes that belonged to her older brother, Ezra, who may or may not be alive somewhere on the battlefield. Mother also cuts Ellen's hair so she looks like a boy. Grandfather instructs her to catch a ride across the river to Elizabethtown with an oysterman. There she should have no trouble finding the Jolly Fox. She's to deliver the loaf of bread to Mr. Shannon only, telling him it is a birthday present. The task will be simple enough, Grandfather assures her. The Shannons will care for her and help her get on a boat home the next morning.

But even before Ellen leaves the city, two boys steal and play keep-away with her loaf of bread. In her first act of bravery, she fights off the boys and retrieves the loaf. When she arrives at the harbor, no oyster or fishing boats remain. A Redcoat pulls her aboard their boat, hoping to get a taste of the fresh bread. Ellen protects her bread from the soldier while another, with a son about her age, befriends her.

When Ellen finally reaches land, she discovers she's ended up in the wrong city. Elizabethtown is several miles away. She has money, but she can't hire a stagecoach because the British have taken them. Ellen battles within herself and finally decides she must walk. A man on horseback named Mr. Murdock gives her a ride to his home and says he will take her the remaining half mile after dinner. His wife, seeing Ellen's wet clothes, tries to get her out of her britches. Ellen is afraid of being found out as a girl and flees the house. She rescues her soggy loaf from the Murdocks' pig on the way out.

Ellen finally reaches the Jolly Fox and delivers the bread. Mr. Shannon's wife is the first person to recognize her as female, and the two joke about how they're fooling the British. Ellen returns home the next day a much braver soul. She's even able to stand up to Dicey at the water pump. She learns that her brother Ezra is alive and well, and she receives a silver locket as a thank you for helping Gen. Washington.

Christian Beliefs

As she walks to Elizabethtown in the dark, Ellen encourages herself with the words, I shall walk and not grow weary. I shall run and not faint. The words make her feel better as she thinks of Grandfather reading them from his Dutch Psalm Book. She's encouraged by how firmly he believes the words. Her mother says things like, "Only the Lord knows" and "God bless you."

Other Belief Systems


Authority Roles

Grandfather is loving toward Ellen, but determined to help her act courageously, regardless of how intimidated she feels. He is confident of her courage, though she isn't, to involve her in a mission that could get him hanged if they are caught. Mother is attentive and concerned for her daughter's safety but ultimately allows Ellen to help her grandfather. Most of the British soldiers are rude, pompous thieves, according to the colonists. However Higgins, whom Ellen meets on the boat to Elizabethtown, is kind, honest and protective of her.





Discussion Topics

If your children have read this book or someone has read it to them, consider these discussion topics:

  • What were some of the things or people Ellen fears early in the story?
  • What do Grandfather and Higgins say about overcoming fear?
  • Are they right?
  • How does Ellen become a more courageous person?
  • How might acting brave in situations help you become more courageous?

  • What things used to scare you but don't anymore?

  • How did you get over your fears?

  • What does Higgins tell her about bullies?

  • What advice does he give her in dealing with them?
  • Does his advice work? How might his advice work for you?

Additional Comments/Notes

This review is brought to you by Focus on the Family, a donor-based ministry. Book reviews cover the content, themes and world-views of fiction books, not their literary merit, and equip parents to decide whether a book is appropriate for their children. A book's inclusion does not constitute an endorsement by Focus on the Family.

You can request a review of a title you can't find at reviewrequests@family.org.

Episode Reviews

We hope this review was both interesting and useful. Please share it with family and friends who would benefit from it as well.

Get weekly e-news, Culture Clips & more!