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The Whisper in the Ruins is the third book in Lisa Hendey's Chime Travelers series. The book begins at St. Anne's School with the annual Pet Blessing that occurred every year on the Feast of St. Francis. The next day, while showing up for church cleaning duty, the twins (Patrick and Katie) discover that someone has thrown a brick through one of the stained-glass windows. The twins have a theory on who committed the crime, and it is Peter, an overly aggressive boy in their class. Another Saturday when they are cleaning, Patrick gets transported back in time to the year 1205.

Back in time, Patrick meets a boy named Francis. At first, he wondered if it was Pope Francis, but he quickly realizes it's not. Francis give Patrick a tour of his home. He tells him that his parents want to marry him off, but Francis is more interested in a life of poverty and serving God. Also in the past, Francis enlightens Patrick on his call to restore San Damiano. When Patrick is transported back to his own time, he realizes that God is calling for repair of St. Anne's and all churches. He and Katie also come up with a plan to figure out what is actually troubling Peter and figure out how they can help him. I'll leave the rest of the story for you to discover yourself.

This was a very touching book in the Chime Travelers series. Lisa Hendey showed real talent in presenting a real problem with a real solution. This shows great depth for a children's book and is much appreciated. Too often authors dumb down books for children, but Lisa proved you don't need to do this. Her treatment of St. Francis and what he might have been like a boy was also handled well and is a great read for fans of St. Francis. I highly recommend this book.

The Mystery at Midnight is the fourth book in the Chime Travelers series. In this book, the protagonists, Katie and Patrick Brady, are about to celebrate their birthday. They have a family tradition of birthday parties, but they are convinced they are too old for this lame party. Part of this has to do with the influence their friends have on them. Katie's friends want to have a nail and hair party. Patrick's friends want to have an all-night pizza and video game party. This not only sounds expensive (since they are twins and would need to essentially have two different parties), but it also sounds complicated. Before they can plan out the details of their party, Vocations Day occurs. While spending time at a monastery, Katie is transported back in time (aka "chime travels.")

In a happy turn of events, she is transported back to Assisi in the year 1212. If you remember, this is the exact place Patrick last chime traveled to, except he was there in 1205. Instead of meeting St. Francis, like Patrick did, Katie instead meets a young woman named Clare. Those of you who know your saints know that this is none other than St. Clare of Assisi, one of St. Francis' most devoted followers. Clare is a beautiful girl whose family wants to marry her off, like was the custom in those days. Clare has other ideas, though. She wants to give up everything, leave her lifestyle, and follow St. Francis. To do this, Katie and Clare must take on a dangerous escape that nearly cost them their lives. When Katie returns, she tells Patrick of her adventure, and they plan a new twist on their family tradition of a birthday. I'll leave that for you to discover.

This fourth installment of the Chime Travelers series introduces us to another popular saint in Clare of Assisi. Lisa Hendey has done a nice job picking the saints she chooses to write about. By giving men and women equal spotlight in the first four books, she has made this a series that will appeal to boys and girls alike. Her books have a nice pace to them and have just the right amount of holiness mixed with real-world kid drama/attitude. The protagonists are not perfect saints, but their willingness to learn and grow from each of their adventures shows they are on the right path, and will provide your children with good role models. For those of you who keep asking if the Brady twins will ever chime travel together, I'd like to go ahead and assure you that it does happen in Book #5, The Strangers at the Manger. If you are a parent, teacher, or librarian, you'll want this series on your bookshelves!

The Strangers at the Manger is Volume #5 in The Chime Travelers series. The book is approximately 140 pages and is a steal at $7. The story begins with the children getting ready to go on Christmas break from school. As they are dismissing, they see the parish priest welcoming a new, poorer immigrant family. The protagonists (Katie and Patrick) immediately begin to judge the family, based on both looks and smell. This was both surprising and disappointing to me. Both Katie and Patrick have been on several time-traveling missions in the past. You figure they would have been a bit more pious after this, but I have to remind myself they are just kids, and nobody is perfect. Back to the story.

Later in the story, the children are helping to clean and decorate the church for Christmas. While doing so, they are transported back in time to just before Jesus' Nativity. They meet Joseph and Mary and accompany them on their way to Bethlehem. They help them find a cave to stay in from a kind innkeeper. They get to witness the shepherds, wise men, Jesus' presentation in the Temple, and just everyday life of the Holy Family. The story ends with them going back to the present day and being kinder and more welcoming to this new family.

Lisa Hendey does a remarkable job of bringing out the true meaning of Christmas in her book. She shows us that we all have room to grow and improve of our treatment to others, and also encourages us to see Christ in everyone we meet. My favorite part of this story was her portrayal of Mary and Joseph. It would have been so easy to paint them as walking around solemn and holy with halos over their head. Instead, she shows us that they were humans just like us. The biggest difference between them and us though was their total trust in God and His plan. I highly recommend this book and the rest of the series for you and your children.

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Copyright 2017 Stuart Dunn