"Battle Before Time," Time Benders #1

Timebenders #1: Battle Before Time

HOME SCHOOL BOOK REVIEW

Book: Battle Before Time, Time Benders #1

Author: Jim Denney

Publisher: Thomas Nelson, 2002

ISBN-10: 1400300398

ISBN-13: 978-1400300396

Language level: 2 (several euphemisms)

Reading level: Ages 10-14

Rating: 4 stars (GOOD)

Reviewed by Wayne S. Walker

For more information e-mail homeschoolbookreview@gmail.com

Denney, Jim. The Battle Before Time, Time Benders #1 (published in 2002 by Tommy Nelson, a division of Thomas Nelson, Inc., Nashville, TN). Right after moving to Missouri in 2002, I was leafing through the Summer/Fall, 2002, catalogue of the Library and Educational Services of Berrien Springs, MI, and found a new series under the “Especially for Boys” category (and since we had two boys, I was always looking for something that would pique their reading interest) called “Time Benders.” At that time, there were two volumes in the series. Number 1 is Battle Before Time and Number 2 is Doorway to Doom. They were both written by Jim Denney, copyrighted in 2002, and published by Tommy Nelson, a division of Thomas Nelson, Inc., of Nashville, TN. So I purchased them. Since then, I have seen them in other catalogues too (CBD has them, but at over a dollar more for the two books). The description in the LES catalogue says, “Timebenders is a new Christian fantasy fiction series in the tradition of C.S. Lewis and Madeleine L’Engle for youth. It combines compelling storylines, realistic tween characters, believable science fiction, humor, and sound Biblical truths into a rewarding adventure story.” The CBD description says, “Send your kids on accidental adventures with Max, Allie, Grady, and Toby. In Battle Before Time, they encounter dinosaurs, angelic beings, and the hissing tempter of Eden. How will they escape? And Doorway to Doom finds the travelers in the midst of a medieval war. Max is forced to design weapons for King Wyvern–or his friends will pay!”

In Battle Before Time, a young middle-school aged inventor named Max McCrane and three classmates travel back in time by means of a beat up old Volkswagen Beetle which Max has turned into a time machine. They visit pre-historic earth and see dinosaurs, then end up in the Garden of Eden where they are tempted by the Enemy to turn away from God. There are several euphemisms (“ohmygosh!”) but no language worse than that. The biggest problem in this book to me is the fact that author apparently accepts an “old earth” viewpoint and dates the time of dinosaurs as 80 million years ago. The book is obviously intended to be allegorical in nature. When the children are in danger, they are rescued by the power of “Elyon the Most High” (El is the Hebrew word for God and Elohim is the form most often used in the Old Testament). His Emissaries are named Gavriyel (suspiciously akin to Gabriel) and Mikael (Michael?). And the Enemy’s name is Lightbringer or Lux (apparently taken from Lucifer in Isa. 14.12). When he read the book, it took our older son Mark, then twelve, a little while, but he was able to figure out the meaning of the figures. Some of the symbolism is obviously based on a typical misunderstanding of Isa. 14.12 and other passages, and there is a reference to Armageddon, but at least in these two books I did not see the obvious premillennial slant that is evident in other similar series such as “Left Behind.”

In the second book, Doorway to Doom, Max and his three middle school friends go through another Timebender device known as the Doorway of the Ages back to the Middle Ages, where their faith helps them to stand up to the cruel King Wyvern (a wyvern is a kind of dragon, and Satan is figuratively pictured as a dragon) of Gyle and his evil alchemist Doctor Delyrius who are trying to conquer the world. Obviously again many of the names have special significance. Personally, I found the story line of the second book more interesting and easy to follow. It has an especially striking conclusion. In both books, some of the family relationships leave a little bit to be desired, but the problems do open the door for some important lessons to be learned, such as respect for others, empathy toward those who are hurting, and trying to help people who are wrong. If your children like science fiction, they should enjoy these books. There is a definite good versus evil theme–no moral ambiguity. The Enemy appears as a silver dragon in the Garden of Eden and in Gyle the evil King worships images of the silver dragon. Thus at least Max, Allie, and Grady, who in the beginning seem rather oblivious to spiritual things, learn the importance of standing up for right and opposing that which is wrong. Mark found the first book “a little weird” but said that he enjoyed reading them both, and Karen said that she liked them too. Given the caveats mentioned above, I would cautiously recommend them for children 10-14.

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