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Book Review

Captured on the High Seas by Marianne Hering and Nancy I. Sanders has been reviewed by Focus on the Family’s marriage and parenting magazine. It is the 14th book in “The Imagination Station” series.

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

When a stray bullet at the beginning of the Revolutionary War damages the Imagination Station, Patrick and Beth land on an American ship, the Royal Louis. This ship is attempting to escape the British blockade on the Atlantic Ocean.

On board, the cousins meet James Forten, a free black teenager, who serves on the ship as a powder monkey (a naval crewman who hoists powder and shot charges to the gunners on the main deck). Initially suspicious, mainly because women and girls weren’t usually on ships, James begins to trust the cousins. He tells them a British frigate has been sighted.

Patrick and Beth help James and the other powder monkeys tie everything down below deck. The Royal Louis fires on the British ship, but then surrenders after the British fire a warning shot.

One problem is that neither Patrick nor Beth are properly disguised as sailors, and if found, James could be sent to the West Indies as a slave. James quickly disguises the children as sailors. Beth tucks her long hair under a sailor’s hat. They are ordered topside by a gruff British sailor and then ordered into boats to be rowed over to the frigate.

Once on board the British frigate Amphion, the prisoners are sent to different locations on the ship. The officers and crew are ordered to the hold, to be kept under guard. The powder monkeys are pressed into service on the British ship. Beth, who assumes the boy’s name of Seth, is ordered to help the cook. James, who has had an education, is ordered to teach the captain’s son, Henry. The captain also puts Patrick under James’ supervision, because Patrick is also a child.

After being introduced to James and Patrick, Henry climbs the rigging. He tells them of all his mischievous pranks aboard the ship — tying knots in the ropes, stuffing nuts in the cannons and teaching the cook’s parrot to steal coins from the sailors and give the coins to him. Henry is active and isn’t afraid of getting into trouble.

Meanwhile, Beth is sent down to the cook, where she is introduced to the cook’s parrot, whose name is Onion Jim. He tries to take an onion from Beth and talks a lot. The parrot almost reveals Beth’s secret when it snatches the sailor hat off Beth’s head.

Fortunately, the cook doesn’t notice, and Beth puts her hat back in place. The cook sends Beth with a plate of food into the hold, where she is to give it to an imprisoned American officer named Lt. Prescott. Beth explains that their ship has been captured and asks if she can help him. He tells her to bring him his sword, which he hides in his cell.

Beth gets an idea of how to be a patriot onboard this ship and explains it to Patrick. They will slowly dump the gunpowder out of the barrels in the ship’s hold whenever they’re asked to go down there. This works well for them until a British soldier suspects them and goes to investigate.

The soldier ends up questioning Lt. Prescott. The lieutenant lies about Patrick and Beth’s involvement but must eventually break out of his cell and fight the soldier to save Patrick and Beth. Soon a crowd gathers to watch and the British captain disperses the fight, ordering the lieutenant back to the hold to be carefully guarded.

James gets word that the prisoners are going to be sent to a British prison in a ship on the coast where men routinely die of starvation or disease from lack of care. The cousins are scared and pray to God for help. Then Henry tells them that African-American prisoners will be sold as slaves in the West Indies.

James tells the cousins that if that is his fate, he is ready to accept it for his country. Henry protests and tells them he will try to get his father to stop the slave traders from taking James. The captain eventually agrees. He even offers James a place in his household as his son’s tutor. James declines because he wants to help his country.

The cook accuses Beth of stealing a gold coin from him; he found it in her coat pocket. Beth knows that the parrot took it, but before she can prove it, the parrot reveals that she is a girl. The cook ties her up in the hold. Henry and Patrick rescue her. James, Patrick and Beth get into a rowboat and are taken to the prison ship.

Lt. Prescott is exchanged for a British officer. Beth and Patrick know the Imagination Station will eventually save them, so they devise a plan to hide James in the lieutenant’s sea chest when he goes ashore. However, James sacrifices his place in the chest to allow a young boy, Daniel Brewton, who is infected with scurvy, to escape.

The Imagination Station comes to save Patrick and Beth. They encourage James to come with them so he can escape the prison ship. But he won’t desert his countrymen. He stays behind, trusting God to protect him.

The cousins return to Whit’s End. Mr. Whittaker tells them that he didn’t mean for them to land on the ship, but was able to get them back once he fixed the problems that the bullet caused in the machine.

Patrick enjoyed the adventure, but is disappointed that he didn’t get to meet George Washington. Whit tells the cousins that they have just enough time to meet the general if they leave immediately. Patrick and Beth step back into the Imagination Station, and Whit sends them off on another adventure.

Christian Beliefs

Patrick and Beth pray to God when they are in trouble and scared; so does James. They believe God will eventually help them escape the British and will sustain them in the meantime.

Other Belief Systems


Authority Roles

Senior officers on the ship expect to be obeyed.


The American ship fires on the British ship. In his attempt to escape, Lt. Prescott swordfights with several British soldiers before the British captain puts a stop to the fight by pointing his loaded pistol at Lt. Prescott. When the cook suspects Beth of stealing his gold coin, he grabs Beth by the arm. When she escapes, he chases her and threatens her with a knife. He ties her up. Beth sprains her ankle on the rope ladder on the side of the British ship.



Discussion Topics

Get free discussion questions for this book and others, at FocusOnTheFamily.com/discuss-books.

Additional Comments/Notes

Lying: The children lie to the captain about Beth being a girl.

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Book reviews cover the content, themes and worldviews of fiction books, not their literary merit, and equip parents to decide whether a book is appropriate for their children. The inclusion of a book's review does not constitute an endorsement by Focus on the Family.

Episode Reviews



Readability Age Range

7 and up


Marianne Hering and Nancy I. Sanders






Record Label



A Focus on the Family book in association with Tyndale House Publishers Inc.


On Video

Year Published





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