The 1925 Scopes Monkey Trial provides the backdrop for Del Campo’s short, charming fiction debut. After school ends, 11-year-old Lulu and her 7-year-old brother, Buddy, visit their grandmother in the rural outback of Missouri, where the upcoming Scopes trial has become the favorite topic of dinner-table conversation. Their parents, grandmother and scientist/inventor uncle Hugh are all ardently religious folks who believe in the primacy of the Bible, and they all think it’s scandalous that some people are saying that “The Trial of the Century” portends the end of religion. When the children ask Hugh what he thinks, he firmly tells them that “evolution is not a scientific fact; it’s merely an assumption with no observational evidence.” When he’s reminded that his insistence on teaching that assertion cost him his job at “a very prestigious university,” he scoffs, insisting that “[a]ll the evidence points directly to an intelligent creator; there is no denying it.” Lulu and Buddy tell him that the kids in their class don’t think the story of Noah’s Ark actually happened, but Hugh insists that the story is true—and it’s an assertion that comes back to haunt him. Del Campo provides a series of neat plot twists that lead to the children’s discovering that Hugh has built a time machine in his attic. They use it, accidentally, to send themselves back in time to the rainy day just before the ark’s launch. Hugh and the kids’ father follow them, and they all confront the reality of the ark—and the imminent danger of the flood. The author soon delivers a fast-paced climax in which they all make their escape. Back in the present, the children’s grandmother provides the book’s overriding message, stoutly reassuring them that “[f]aith means believing with your heart and not with your eyes.” It’s a tidy moral, but Del Campo’s prose style as she delivers it is never labored or heavy-handed. The book’s brevity and thoughtfulness may make it an ideal supplement for Bible study classes, in which it may prompt lively discussion.
A well-turned time-travel adventure story with a biblical edge.