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By Paul McCusker
Tyndale House Publishers, Inc.Copyright © 2005 Focus on the Family
All right reserved.
Chapter One"Ready or not, here I come!" a child's voice called out from somewhere behind the shed.
Madina Nicholaivitch giggled and scrambled to find a hiding place. She'd already hidden once behind the well and once in the garage, and now she had to think of somewhere little Johnny Ziegler wouldn't think to find her.
Johnny shouted, excitement in his voice, "I'm coming, Maddy!"
Everyone called her Maddy now except her grandparents, who still spoke in Russian and called her Dreamy Madina in that tongue. It didn't matter to them that they'd been living in America, this town of Odyssey, for 10 years now. "We will not forsake our traditions, no matter where we live," Grandma had said.
On the other hand, Maddy's father, Boris, now refused to speak any Russian. He said he was protesting the Russian Revolution of 1917 that drove them, persecuted and destitute, from their home in St. Petersburg. "We're in America now," he stated again and again in his clipped English. "We must speak as Americans."
"The revolution will not last," Maddy's Grandpa proclaimed several times a year, especially in October, on the anniversary of the revolution.
"It is now 1927, is it not?" Maddy's father argued. "They have killed the czar, they have destroyed everything we once held dear, and they are closing our churches. I turn my back on Russia as Russia turned its back on us. We are Americans now."
So Madina became Maddy and spoke American because she was only two when they came to America. She never really learned Russian anyway, except for odd phrases from her grandparents. Refugees that they were, they'd started off in New York and drifted west to Chicago as opportunities from various friends and relatives presented themselves. Boris had been an accomplished tailor back in St. Petersburg, so his skill was in demand wherever they went. Then they'd heard from a cousin who owned a tailor shop in the small town of Odyssey and wanted Boris to join him in the business. They called the firm Nichols Tailor & Clothes, Nichols being the English corruption of their original Russian name, and made clothes for nearly everyone, including the mayor of Odyssey.
Maddy was unaffected by all the changes and upheaval in their lives. She seemed contented and happy regardless of where they were. The world could have been falling apart around her and she would have carried on in her pleasant, dreamlike way, lost in fantasies like Alice in Wonderland, Peter Pan, and the many other stories she read at the local library.
She often pretended to be a girl with magical powers in a fairy-tale world. Or she played out a dream she'd been having night after night for the past two weeks. In the dream, she was a lady-in-waiting to a princess with raven black hair and the most beautiful face Maddy had ever seen.
"You must come and help me," the princess said to her every night in the dream.
"I will," Maddy replied. And then she would wake up.
She had told her mother about the dream. But her mother smiled indulgently and dismissed it as she had most of Maddy's fanciful ideas. Apart from pretending to be in fairy tales, Maddy enjoyed playing games like hide-and-seek with the smaller neighborhood children. Her mother often said that she would be a teacher when she grew up because she loved books and children so much.
Maddy circled their old farm-style house that had been built with several other similar houses on the edge of town. It had gray shingles, off-white shutters, and a long porch along the front. She ducked under the clothesline that stretched from the porch post to a nearby pole. The shirts and underclothes brushed comfortingly against her face, warmed by the sun. She then spied a small break in the trelliswork that encased the underside of the porch. That would be her hiding place, she decided-under the porch.
She pressed a hand down on her thick, curly, brown hair to keep it from getting caught on any of the trellis splinters and went only as far under as she dared, to the edge of the shadows. The dirt under her hands and bare legs was cold. She tried not to get any of it on her dark blue peasant dress, which her father had made especially for her. She could smell the damp earth and old wood from the porch. In another part of the garden, she heard her little brother squeal with delight as their mother played with him in the late-summer warmth.
"I'm going to find you," little Johnny, the boy from next door, called out.
Maddy held her breath as she saw his legs appear through the diamond shapes of the trellis. He hesitated, but the position of his feet told her that he had his back to the porch. Maybe he wouldn't see the gap she'd crawled through. He moved farther along, getting closer to the gap, so she moved farther back into the shadows and darkness. The hair on her neck bristled. She'd always worried that a wild animal might have gone under the porch to live, just as their dog Babushka had when she'd given birth to seven puppies last year. But Maddy's desire to keep Johnny from finding her was greater than her fear, so she went farther back and farther in.
The porch, like a large mouth, seemed to swallow her in darkness. The trelliswork, the sunlight, and even Johnny's legs, now moving to and fro along the porch, faded away as if she'd slowly closed her eyes. But she knew she hadn't. She held her hand up in front of her face and wiggled her fingers. She could see still them.
Then, from somewhere behind her, a light grew, like the rising of a sun. But it wasn't yellow like dawn sunlight; it was white and bright, like the sun at noon. She turned to see, wondering where the light had come from. She knew well that there couldn't be a light farther under the porch, that she would soon reach a dead end at the cement wall of the basement.
As she looked at the light, she began to hear noises as well. At first they were indistinct, but then she recognized them as the sounds of people talking and moving. Maddy wondered if friends from town had come to visit. But the voices were too numerous for a small group of friends. This sounded more like a big crowd. And mixed with the voices were the distinct sounds of horses whinnying and the clip-clop of their hooves and the grating of wagon wheels on a stony street.
Crawling crablike and being careful not to bump her head on the underside of the porch, Maddy moved in the direction of the light and sounds. The noises grew louder, and, once she squinted a little, she could see human and horse legs moving back and forth, plus the distinct outline of wagon wheels.
It's a busy street, she thought, but then she reminded herself, There's no busy street near our house. The sight inflamed her imagination, and she ventured still closer and closer to the scene. It's like crawling out of a small cave, she thought. Then her mind raced to the many stories she'd read about children who had stepped through a hole or mirror or doorway and wound up in a magical land. Her heart beat excitedly as she thought-hoped-that maybe it was about to happen to her. Perhaps she would get to see something wondrous; perhaps she was going to enter a fairy tale.
At the edge of the darkness, she glanced up and realized she was no longer under the porch. The coarse planks of plywood and the two wheels directly in front of her and two wheels directly behind her made her think she must be under a wagon. More startling was that the porch, the trellis, Johnny, and even her house had disappeared.
A man shouted, "Yah!" and snapped leather reins, and the wagon moved away from her. She stayed still, afraid she might get caught under the wheels, but they didn't touch her. In a moment she was crouched in an open space, sunlight pouring down onto her. People were crowded around, and she stood up with embarrassment on her face, certain they were wondering who she was and where she'd come from.
A man grabbed her arm and pulled her quickly into the crowd. "You'd better get out of the road, little lady," he warned. "Do you want to get run over by the procession?"
Besides that, no one seemed to notice her. But she noticed them. Her eyes were dazzled by the bright colors of the hundreds -maybe even thousands-of people lined up on both sides of the avenue. Trees sprung out from among them like green fountains. Tall buildings stood behind them with enormous columns and grand archways. Maddy blinked again. The colors seemed too bright somehow, much richer than the colors she was used to seeing. Then she smiled to herself: They looked just like the colors in so many of the illustrated stories she'd read.
She noticed that some of the people clutched flags and banners, while others held odd-looking, rectangular-shaped hats to their chests, and a few carried children up on their shoulders. What struck Maddy most were the peculiar garments everyone wore. The women were in long, frilly dresses, not unlike Maddy's own peasant dress but far more intricate in their design, billowing out at the waist like tents. The men had on long coats and trousers that only went to just below their knees. The rest of their legs were covered with white stockings. On their feet they wore leather shoes with large, square buckles. The men had ponytails, she noticed, and hats that came to three-pointed corners.
The scene reminded her of the last Fourth of July, when she had stood along Main Street with the rest of Odyssey for the big parade, followed by fireworks and picnic food in the park. Some of the people in that parade had dressed the same as the people she saw now. It was the style of clothes worn when America won its independence.
Unlike the parade in Odyssey, however, this parade didn't seem very happy. Most of the people stood with stern expressions on their faces. A few looked grieved. Several women wiped tears from their eyes. Maddy suspected she had formed the wrong impression of what she was seeing. Maybe it wasn't a parade; maybe it was a funeral procession.
"Did someone die?" Maddy asked the man who'd pulled her from the street.
He gazed at her thoughtfully and replied, "Our nation, little lady Our nation."
A regiment of soldiers now marched down the avenue. The men were dressed in the same outfits as those in the crowd, but all were a solid blue color, and they had helmets on their heads and spears or swords in their hands. They broke their ranks and spread out to the edge of the crowd.
"The king is coming, and we want you to be excited about it," one of them said gruffly.
"He's not our king!" someone shouted from the thick of the crowd.
The soldier held up his sword menacingly. "You can be excited or arrested," he threatened. "The choice is yours."
The soldiers moved off to stir up other parts of the crowd. Across the avenue, a fight broke out, and Maddy watched in horror as three soldiers began to beat and kick a man they'd knocked down. They dragged him away while the rest of the soldiers stood with their swords and spears at the ready.
What kind of parade is this, she wondered, where the people are forced to enjoy it or be beaten? As if to answer her question, Maddy remembered the stories her father told of the Russian revolutionaries who demanded that people parade and salute even when they didn't want to.
Halfhearted cheers worked their way through the crowd as a parade of horses approached and passed, soldiers sitting erect on their backs, swords held high in a formal salute. Then a large band of musicians with woodwinds and brass instruments came by, playing a lively song of celebration. Next came several black, open-topped carriages, each with people dressed in colorful outfits of gold and silver that twinkled in the sunlight. The men wore white shirts with lacy collars. The women wore hats with brightly colored feathers sticking out of the backs. They waved and smiled at the crowd.
Maddy noticed one man in particular who seemed almost as unhappy as some of the people in the crowd. He had a pockmarked face, unfriendly eyes, a narrow nose, and thinning, wiry hair. Unlike the rest of the parade, he didn't wear a colorful jacket but one of solid black-as if he, too, were mourning something. Occasionally he lifted his hand in a wave, but Maddy was struck by the look of boredom on his face. It seemed to require considerable effort for him to be pleasant to the crowd.
At the end of this particular procession came the largest carriage of all. Gold on the outside, its seats were made of a plush, red material. A man sat alone on the rear seat-propped up somehow to raise him higher than he normally would have been-and waved happily at the crowds. He was a pleasant-looking, middle-aged man with ruddy cheeks, big eyes, and wild, curly hair.
"I was wondering if he'd wear that stupid wig," someone muttered nearby.
"It's no worse than that coat," someone else commented.
The man's coat displayed the colors of the rainbow and had large buttons on the front. Maddy smiled. It made him look a little like a clown.
"I can't bear it," a woman cried as large tears streamed down her face. Even with the tears, she waved a small flag back and forth.
"What's wrong?" Maddy asked the woman. "Why are you crying?"
The woman dabbed at her face with a handkerchief. "Because it's the end of us all," she replied with a sniffle.
"Aye," an elderly man behind her agreed. "When the barbarians parade down the streets of Sarum, it's the end of Marus."
Suddenly a group of soldiers who had been following the golden carriage with muskets slung over their shoulders spread out to the crowds, thrusting flags and banners into their hands. "Take these and follow us to the palace," they commanded.
"Only after I've had my brain replaced with a beetroot," the elderly man said defiantly.
A soldier hit him in the stomach with the butt of his musket. The man doubled over in pain. "You'll follow no matter what kind of brain you have!" the soldier growled.
"Leave us alone!" a woman shouted. "Why don't you go back to Palatia where you belong?"
"And deprive our king of his spoils?" another soldier called back. "That wouldn't do."
The man who'd been hit recovered his breath, grumbled something Maddy didn't understand, then stepped out onto the avenue to follow the soldiers. Maddy was swept along with him and the rest of the crowd around her. Before she knew it, the man's flag-a small, rectangular cloth of red with a single star in the middle-was in her hand. He smiled at her. "You'll enjoy waving it more than I will," he suggested with a pained expression on his face. Eventually, she lost him in the crowd.
Worried that she might get in trouble, Maddy held the flag up and swung it as she walked. It didn't occur to her that she had no idea where she was or if she could find her way back to her porch.
Excerpted from Annison's Risk by Paul McCusker Copyright © 2005 by Focus on the Family. Excerpted by permission.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
I love this series from Paul McCusker. The stories are so well-written and so adventure packed. I read them to my 2-8 yr old girls. I truly enjoy the stories, too. Each one is based on a Bible story, and it is fun to see how quickly you can figure out what story it is. I highly recommend this book and the entire series!
My children and I are hooked on the Passages series! Each book is about different children throughout different time periods in Odyssey's history who end up finding themselves in another world (reminiscent of Narnia). The world, Marus, parallels the bible in which each book is a bible story come to life, though with a very different setting and intriguing twists. This book tells the story of Queen Esther (Annison) with a fairytale/fantasy twist. A little girl, Maddy, finds herself in the middle of the story helping Annison. These books also have a hint of mystery--each "manuscript" (a.k.a. book) was written by a mysterious author. Whit and his friend wonder who wrote them and how many children ended up having an adventure in Marus. Each book begins with their investigation and their discovery of a new manuscript. I haven't read the last 3 books but I must say that even I, as an adult, can't wait to see where the mystery leads! Plus, reading this book made my children want to read the book of Esther again and compare the two stories. A great motivation to dig deeper into God's word! My 3rd graders love these books, and so do I.
Great Book! Annison's Risk is the exciting continuation of Paul McCusker's Adventures in Odyssey Passage Series. Maddy is transported from her world to Marus to the time of Princesses and Kings. She finds herself in the palace with a princess who believes in the Unseen One along with a few other secret believers and a King who does not believe. Maddy became a part of the story and the reader is made to feel like they are right there in the middle of Queen Esther's story too.
McCusker has a gift for bringing Bible stories to life in a way that is easy for younger readers to read, understand, and enjoy. Younger readers might read the story of Esther in the Bible and not identify with her. However, Maddy seems like a regular girl that many readers might identify with and then be encouraged and motivated to read the real story. Alternately, readers might read this story first, and then at a later time encounter the story of Esther and be excited to make the connection between the two stories. I'm not a huge fan of fantasy writing, but this book is easy to follow and appreciate. The characters are interesting and endearing, and the plot keeps you on your toes and makes you want to keep reading. I think this story will pull in even the most reluctant readers. If you are looking for a book with a good message for tween readers, this is a great choice! Be aware that this is book three of the Adventures in Odyssey series, and while it is not necessary to have read the first two to enjoy this one, I think it makes the story better if you have already read them.
I thoroughly enjoyed this book! What a fascinating story! When Maddy crawls under the porch she finds herself in a different world – one that has 2 moons – in the land of Marus. Marus has just been taken over by Palatia and the King of Palatia is going to marry a most beautiful Maruian girl, Annison. Through a series of events Maddy finds herself helping Annison. I loved this retold story of Esther! And especially enjoyed the descriptions of the clothing worn, the strange hair styles and the king’s inability to play golf well!
Each of the Passages books is written about a child (or children) from Odyssey ending up traveling to an alternate world called Marus (in a style similar to The Chronicles of Narnia books). The Passages stories are retellings of real Biblical stories, but this time in the fantasy world of Marus where the stories are written with a new perspective and with new twists. Book #3 in the Passages series, “Annison’s Risk“, is based on the story of Esther. It illustrates the power of our participation in God’s plan. In the book, Maddy Nicholaivitch is hiding under the porch of her house while playing a game of hide and seek with her friend when she all of a sudden finds herself in the fantasy world of Marus. As she’s trying to figure out where she is, she sees the soon to be queen of Marus, Annison, who Maddy is surprised to see is the same woman who was asking her for help in her dreams. By why does Annison need help and can Maddy help her? Out of the first three Passages books, “Annison’s Risk” is probably my favorite. I remember loving these books when I read them as a preteen 9+ years ago and I still love them now! Paul McCusker has done a wonderful job of creating the world of Marus and retelling Biblical stories in a new way in a new world. While it does help to know something about Adventures in Odyssey (I’m a fan of the show myself), it is not necessary to have listened to the show before. The books can still be understood without any previous knowledge of Odyssey. The books do have some violence and deaths in them, though, so I would recommend them with the books’ first editions age recommendation of 10 & up. I have enjoyed reading this series and I would definitely recommend it.
Annison’s Risk, by Paul McCusker, is the story of 12 year old Maddy who travels to another world as she has always dreamed. But all is not well in the country of Marus. The new king’s right hand man I hatching several evil plots and it’s up to Maddy, Queen Annison, and Simet to stop him. How will they succeed when it’s becoming apparent that this is not a fairytale as Maddy had hoped? Annison’s Risk is a cute children’s story that brings the story of Esther to life. It is not exactly the same as the book of Esther in the Bible, but it shows much of what she experienced the way a child might see it. One thing I didn’t like about the retelling is that the author downplayed the risk the queen took. In this story, the Annison found a way around the rule that no one may enter the king’s presence unless invited. Instead of going straight into the king’s presence, Annison arranged to “accidentally” come across his path. Otherwise the story is essentially the same but with Maddy playing the key role of messenger and spy. In this story, God, or the “Unseen One”, used a child with little faith to boost the faith of others and herself. It is a manmade part of the story yet something God might do considering His character. Annison’s Risk is told in a way children can understand and brings the story of Esther to life.
I think this series gets better and better. Annison's Risk retells the story of Esther as a young girl from Odyssey winds up in Marus during a regime change. Maddy believes she's there to help the queen have a fairy tale ending to her love story. What she discovers about her role there is far more important in her life and the lives of key members of the king's court. Each of the Passages stories is introduced and concluded with scenes of two men trying to find the source of these stories, written in plain school notebooks. The pieces are starting to come together in this story. I'm sufficiently hooked to want to keep reading and find out the source. The books are recommended for 10 and up and are creatively told so that the Bible story is recognizable but new truths can be learned from them.
This was a very good retelling of the story of Esther from the Bible. I did have a little hard time getting into the story line but once I did, it was very interesting. This book puts a different twist on an old story. Maddy has a dream and in the dream she sees Annison (who is like Esther) and Annison tells her to come help her. Maddy ends up living out her dream and she encounters Annison, the king, and all the other characters who are similar to the ones in the book of Esther. I think this would be a very good way for young people to understand the story of Esther a little more. I like the way they have taken and old story and gave it a different twist. Although this is the 3rd book in the series, you don't have to read Books 1 and 2 to understand this story. I would recommend this book to all young people.
wonderful story about the marriage of Annison to King Willem in Palatia that will unite the people of Palatia with those of Marus. The story seems like the Biblical story of Esther, for there is a good man Simet, a castle guard, who tries to protect Annison and Maddy and an evil man, Lord Hector, who is plotting to kill the King and his wife Annison. Simet is actually accused of planning to kill the king, but Maddy overhears Lord Hector plotting to poison the king. To get rid of Simet, Lord Hector persuades to king to outlaw the Old Faith. Not knowing Annison and Simet are member of the Old Faith, the king says Lord Hector can have his wish. Hector arranges to arrest the members when they meet, but they manage to escape through a secret hatchway. Who is Maddy, what is her role, and how does she get involved in helping Annison? How does Lord Hector resemble Haman in the Biblical story of Esther? In what ways is Annison like Queen Esther? Who plays the role of Mordecai? Why is Simet so protective of Annison? How are the endings of both stories similar?
I've been a huge fan of the Focus on the Family books for children and teens, and "Annisons's Risk" is a new favorite. Have you ever looked at a word for so long that it suddenly 'looks wrong'? Sometimes familiarity can lead to misunderstanding, or even apathy. The Passages books take traditional Bible stories that are familiar, but place the events in a fantasy world with new characters and new scenes, breathing new life and new understanding into the stories. Make no mistake, the stories from the Bible are true; these are fiction. But both help children and preteens grasp the concepts and teachings of the stories in a fresh and new way. I highly recommend the entire "Passages" series, and encourage parents to read along with their children, then take them to the Bible. Show them the power of God's Word and the truth found within the pages.
I enjoyed reading this story, although it was probably intended for younger audiences. This story, as well as the others in The Passages series, gave me a new perspective on an old familiar event.
Wonderful Story of an Alternate World: This is a delightful story. The dreamy young girl who reads a lot of fairy tales reminds me of a young me. Her adventures are fascinating. The story parallels a Bible story, with differences creatively woven in. The alternate land or kingdom is lovely. The dangers are very realistic, but written with sensitivity to a young girl’s viewpoint. The solutions are beautifully done. This third book does not depend on the others; it is complete in itself. I would recommend it, especially to young readers.
It is the 1920's and 'Dreamy Madina', or Maddy as she is known, has come with her family to America from Russia to escape the Russian Revolution. She now lives in Odyssey and often has dreams of a fairy tale princess who asks for her help. She loves to read and has many fanciful ideas. While playing hide and seek with a neighbor boy she is transported to a palace in Marus - where she sees the princess from her dreams. She can only jump into this real life fairy tale with her whole heart, and she just might learn something - and help save the kingdom. This retelling of the story of Esther was wonderfully done, and I am really enjoying the author's take on Biblical stories through the lens of Odyssey. In the few books I've read so far, they have done a great job of depicting the truth while telling an interesting and poignant story.
The beginning of the book has a note to parents from Focus on the Family which states in part " [This] series has been designed to retell Bible stories in such a new and creative way that young readers will be able to experience them as if for the first time. [...] Because familiarity can dull the impact of an oft told tale. By "dressing up" the biblical stories in a new set of "clothes", we hope to release their inherent power in new ways ... and change young lives in the process." This book absolutely succeeds in the above statement. Not only is the story of Esther retold in a different setting (the fictional land of Marus), but contextual information and ideas are given in a way similar to a Biblical commentary. The point is made that the story of Esther is not so much a fairy tale about a Queen and a King who ultimately live happily ever after, but about the struggle between ideas and those who wield them. This book is well written, especially for children's literature. The back cover recommends it for ages 10 and up, but I would lower that age to 8 if the child is an advanced reader. Most importantly, Parents choosing this book for their children should make sure to discuss the differences between the novel and the Biblical account of Esther. Some details may get muddied. Otherwise this is a great read I would recommend in a heart beat.