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Book Review

Freedom at the Falls by Marianne Hering and Sheila Seifet has been reviewed by Focus on the Family’s marriage and parenting magazine. It is the 22nd 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

While Eugene works with Nikola Tesla to return to his correct age, Patrick and Beth go on an 1861 adventure. They board the Lincoln Special in Cleveland, a train that is taking president-elect Abraham Lincoln to the capital. Their tickets are to Buffalo, New York, and Patrick has a black oilskin bag for Lincoln.

Almost immediately, they meet Holman Jones, a slave catcher. He is looking for a teen named Sally. They learn that people can't own slaves in Ohio, but slave catchers can return slaves found in Ohio to their masters.

Patrick misplaces the black bag, so the cousins go to the baggage car to see if someone picked it up and put it with the other bags. They find the bag there and also find Sally. They choose to help her however they can. For now, she stays hidden in the baggage car.

When the train stops en route, Patrick and Beth take the black bag to Lincoln. They interrupt his speech to the crowd. Lincoln appreciates that they returned his bag because it has his inauguration speech in it. He lets the cousins travel with him and his family.

Lincoln's train car is set up like a living room. They meet his sons Willie and Tad. They also meet Mr. Wood, who organizes the schedule for the Lincoln Special. The cousins learn that the North loves Lincoln, but the South despises him.

Lincoln is committed to keeping the Union together. He chooses to meet as many people as he can because he believes that as the president-elect, he is public property. He belongs to the people who elected him.

Patrick and Beth go into the small room at the end of the family's car. They meet Mary Lincoln. Patrick plays soldiers with Willie. Beth watches over Tad.

At the next stop, people climb all over the top of the train. Patrick and Willie hurry outside to see the crowds. Mary lets Beth know that she is against slavery.

The conductor says he'll take Mary's trunks to the baggage car after lunch. Beth is afraid he'll find Sally. She warns Patrick, who takes Lincoln's black bag to the baggage car to warn Sally. Willie goes with him.

Mary puts all her clothes in one trunk, except for a blue cloak that remains in the first trunk. She asks the conductor to take the near-empty trunk to the baggage car. She gives Beth a basket of fruit and tells her to follow him.

The train stops at another small town. As Beth passes Jones, he thinks Sally is hiding in the trunk. The conductor refuses to open Mary's trunk for him. Beth puts the fruit on the trunk, and it moves. Jones realizes the trunk is empty.

The conductor delivers the trunk to the baggage car and then leaves. Beth arrives and asks the boys to keep Jones from entering the baggage car. Willie jams a toy soldier in the lock, which keeps the door from opening.

Beth takes a blue cloak out of the trunk and closes it. Then she and Willie open the train car's side door and push the trunk onto the station's platform, just before the train starts to slowly move away. They shut the side door and open the door that Jones is pounding on.

Jones believes that Sally is in the trunk, which is on the station platform. He jumps off the moving train to capture her. The train picks up steam and leaves him behind. The children are relieved.

Sally comes out of her hiding place. Beth gives Sally the blue cloak, and then the children lead her to Mary. One nosy reporter tries to stop them, but they get away from him. Mary hides Sally in her small room.

At one stop, Lincoln asks to meet Grace Bedell, a girl who asked him to grow whiskers so he'd look better. They meet, and the crowd cheers. The nosy reporter sends a telegram, and Patrick suspects that he's sent it to Jones.

When they reach Buffalo, the crowds are bigger than anywhere else. Mrs. Lincoln takes the children in a carriage to the American Hotel. They meet a free black man named Murray, who is Sally's next conductor on the Underground Railroad.

Murray takes Sally, Beth and Patrick to Niagara Falls because all the other routes from Buffalo to Canada are being watched. Once at the Falls, the girls hurry to buy a ticket for the railroad that goes across the Falls. There is also a walking bridge below the rails. They are interrupted by the arrival of Jones.

Patrick and Murray try to stop him, but they can only delay him. They all see a blue-cloaked girl running across the bridge on the walking path below the rails. Jones takes off after her. Patrick is too far behind to stop him.

Before she is halfway across, Jones stops the blue-clad girl. To everyone's surprise, the girl in the blue cloak is Beth. Just then, the train bound for Canada rattles the tracks above them. Sally makes it to Canada on the train. Jones runs back to try and stop the train, but he is too late.

The Imagination Station appears with Eugene. He has calculated how to return to his correct age, but something went wrong. Now he is much younger than his age. He's a teenager. He tells Patrick and Beth that there is a plot afoot to murder Lincoln before the inauguration.

Christian Beliefs

Beth accuses Jones, the slave catcher, of being the Devil because he is full of lies. Quakers are mentioned as being Christian and being against slavery. When Jones is pounding on the door to get into the baggage car, Beth prays for God's help.

Other Belief Systems


Authority Roles

Lincoln feels that he is now public property since the American people have voted for him to become president. Mary takes responsibility for getting all the children safely off the train in Buffalo.

Lincoln and Mary love their children Willie and Tad, and they make the best out of traveling with children in a grownup world. Willie is a prankster. Sometimes Lincoln appreciates his jokes, and sometimes Willie is gently reprimanded. Mary feels overwhelmed by Willie's high energy.

Jones is a slave catcher. He uses the power of the law to hunt down slaves and receives money for returning them to their masters.





Discussion Topics

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

Additional Comments/Notes

Race: Jones, the slave catcher, says that Beth's hair is as black as a Negro's. Beth tells him that God loves people of all races.

Deception: The children trick Jones so he gets off the train. They do this to keep Sally safe.

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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 Sheila Seifert






Record Label



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


On Video

Year Published





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