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Book Review

Danger on a Silent Night by Marianne Hering and Nancy I. Sanders has been reviewed by Focus on the Family’s marriage and parenting magazine. It is the 12th 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

Patrick and his cousin, Beth, are discussing Christmas presents as they enter Whit’s End Soda Shop. Beth greets Mr. Whittaker (known to most as Whit) and gives him some homemade cookies. She explains she’s not giving store-bought gifts to anyone this year. Instead, she intends to give money to families in need. She’s also not asking for gifts from others.

Patrick thinks her idea is crazy. When he insists giving gifts is a tradition, Beth asks Whit if it was always that way. He says he will show them. Whit leads the kids downstairs to his invention, the Imagination Station, which allows people to experience history for themselves. The machine whirs, shakes and zooms the kids through a tunnel.

Patrick finds himself wearing embroidered robes and a turban. He is standing in an open field in a foreign land. A wealthy group of men and a group of traders are arguing about who can use the nearby well for their camels. A young man appears in a puff of smoke and orders all the men to share the water. He vanishes again, and the traders are frightened by the magic they’ve seen.

Beth finds herself in an ancient marble palace. A court musician named Judith asks her to help take instruments into the king’s throne room. Beth watches the king and his assistant, Brutus, nervously discussing a wealthy caravan of men who might be magicians. As the girls leave, Brutus questions Beth. He seems highly suspicious of anyone he doesn’t know.

Patrick meets the boy who “disappeared” in the puff of smoke. His name is Apellus. He says it wasn’t really magic he used. He promises he’ll reveal his secrets if Patrick travels with him to Jerusalem. Apellus says they’re going to find the newborn king of the Jews. Patrick realizes they are looking for Jesus.

Apellus’ father, Datis, says they’re making a stop at the palace to pay respects to King Herod. When the group comes before Herod to ask where to find the new king, Herod and Brutus can hardly hide their anger. They say there is no other king but that they’d like to hear about whatever the men in the caravan find. Patrick sees Beth walk in with a pitcher of water. As the men of the caravan are leaving, he sneaks into the hallway to find her. Apellus follows him, and Roman guards capture the boys.

Beth continues to wait with Judith. The girls are called back into the throne room as the king consults Judith’s scholar uncle, Simeon. The nervous Simeon reads from the writings of the prophet Micah about a new ruler who would shepherd the people of Israel. Judith vows to help sneak Beth out of the palace so she can follow the caravan and find Patrick.

She gives Beth a stuffed toy she’s made as a gift for the baby. The girls hear Patrick’s voice as they pass the throne room, and they see Patrick and Apellus talking to Herod. He says he will let them rejoin their caravan as long as they will return to tell him where the baby can be found. Herod also promises to help Patrick find his lost cousin. But once the boys have left the room, Herod orders Brutus to find Beth and kill her.

Beth and Judith meet Simeon in secret. He tells them he has seen the baby and knows he’s the real King of the Jews. He also knows Herod will kill the child if he finds Him. Beth escapes the palace and catches up with the caravan. She tells the group they have to warn Mary and Joseph of the danger to the baby.

They ride through the night but discover Brutus is following them. The kids lead Brutus on a chase before they rejoin the caravan. The group finds Mary and Joseph, and the travelers give Jesus gifts as they worship Him. Beth gets to hold Jesus and gives Him the toy from Judith.

Brutus appears at the window. The kids run, and he chases them through the streets. They use some of Apellus’ “magic” powder to distract Brutus. Apellus’ servants bind Brutus and put him in a basket. Datis tells Apellus he had a dream in which God told him not to return to Herod. The kids make a quick stop to check on Mary and Joseph but discover they have already fled with Jesus.

Beth says the gifts from the wise men will pay the family’s way to Egypt. Beth and Patrick return to Odyssey in the Imagination Station. Whit asks them about their trip and tells them the wise men were likely descendants of Daniel. The kids hope Apellus becomes a follower of Jesus. When Whit asks what they learned about gifts, Patrick says he thinks gifts mean more when a person works to earn the money or makes them himself. The kids realize the tradition of gift giving has more to do with showing love and honor than buying things.

Christian Beliefs

The book retells the biblical account of the wise men traveling to meet Jesus and give gifts. Scripture from Micah prophesying Jesus’ birth appears in the text. The kids hope their new friend, Apellus, becomes a Christ follower.

Other Belief Systems

Apellus appears to perform magic, but he soon shows Patrick it is just a trick of science. Whit and Apellus both note that real magic is not something to play with.

Authority Roles

Whit answers the kids’ questions by allowing them to relive a Bible story. Herod is jealous when he hears about the possibility of another king. He lies and orders people to be killed. Datis believes the message God sends him in a dream and refuses to return to Herod. He expends great time, effort and resources to follow the star to Jesus.





Discussion Topics

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

Additional Comments/Notes

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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 to 10


Marianne Hering and Nancy I. Sanders






Record Label



A Focus on the Family book published by Tyndale House Publishers Inc.


On Video

Year Published





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