New novel transports readers to Biblical times

*This review first appeared in The Budget’s April 11, 2018 Local Edition

By Pat Edgar
The Budget

Following the success of “The Great Flood” in his “Imagine” series, author Matt Koceich recently released “The Ten Plagues.” These books are targeted to children 8 years old through the tween years. Each of the first two books (with more to follow) provides a biblically- sound and entertaining way for students to learn more about the Bible as well as the concept of faithfulness to God.

In “The Ten Plagues,” 11-year-old Kai Wells finds herself instantly transported from modern-day Florida to ancient Egypt in the time of Moses. When the time travel begins, Kai is trying to face down the class bully, Vivian Gold, who transferred to Kai’s middle school at the beginning of the school year. Kai was one of the first students to befriend her. But as Vivian has difficulty fitting in, she turns to bullying to get the attention of her classmates.

“Imagine: The Ten Plagues” by Matt Koceich

Kai’s trouble with her stems from an incident when she intervenes while Vivian is bothering an innocent fourth-grade girl. An account of that episode finds its way first to the principal and then to Vivian’s mother who grounded her. Now Vivian wants Kai to “explain” to the principal that the incident was all in fun. If Kai doesn’t agree, she will suffer consequences at Vivian’s hands.

But just as Vivian throws Kai’s cell phone into the sewer and knocks her to the ground, the transformation occurs.

Kai opens her eyes, expecting to see Vivian coming at her again, but what she sees instead is a very changed landscape and what appears to be a young man wearing sandals, a tunic and black eyeliner staring down at her. The young, dark-haired man explains that she is in the land of the Pharaoh and introduces himself as Amenken, Amen for short. Further, he tells Kai that she is in Pi Ramsesses named for the Pharaoh Ramses, and the water she sees is the Nile River. In return, Kai explains that she is from Florida, her attire is appropriate for her hometown, and she doesn’t know how she got here to what she expects is Egypt.

When Amen leads her to the crest of the nearest hill, she is able to look down upon a large valley filled with hastily built shelters and bustling with men, women and children. Amen identifies these people as Israelites, and slowly Kai realizes she is looking upon the people wait- ing for Moses to lead them out of Egypt and away from the people who have enslaved them. It is apparent that the exodus is being stopped by the Egyptian guards on horseback who encircle the encampment.

Although Amen is dressed like the other Egyptian soldiers, he seems preoccupied by something other than keeping the people from leaving the compound.

He explains to Kai that he is trying to help a young Jewish girl named Lily who was found outside of the encampment on a quest to find extra water for her sick mother. The confined people are provided with very small rations of food and water and certainly not enough to treat the sick. Lily was seen outside of the temporary village and, even though she has managed to sneak back in, the soldiers are looking for her in order to arrest her.

So starts the adventures of Kai in ancient Egypt as she tries to help Lily.

Parallels are obvious between Lily and the fourth-grade girl Kai has been trying to defend against Vivian Gold’s bullying. During this time, she meets Moses and his brother Aaron, meets some of the people trying to flee and sees the 10 plagues that are directed by God to convince the Egyptians to let His people go.

As the land is covered with locusts and other insects, Kai is strangely unaffected by them. She sees the water turn to blood but does not go thirsty. And she watches in horror as children die during the last plague.

She is imprisoned by Egyptian captors who believe she is somehow involved in the misfortunes and tragedies that befall them. During her exciting escape, she sees evidence of other time-travelers who have visited Biblical sites to intervene to help God’s plans in the past. This plot twist promises to be developed further in future books.

“Imagine: The Ten Plagues” is interesting and exciting enough to be read as a simple adventure story but would also make a great resource for a youth Bible study or Sunday school class. Author Matt Koceich makes his home in Texas with his family where he teaches middle school and continues to write. His next installment in the “Imagine” series is due out this summer.