Earl and Sally Hill are reluctant to take their feisty nine-year-old daughter Elvia on vacation to Tanzania, Africa. But her babysitter is ill, so they take her along anyway, hoping for the best.
To their horror, their worst fears come true. Elvia disappears from Tembo National Park, apparently the victim of a lion snatching! A massive search ensues, involving a corrupt park director, a delusional lion expert, a DNA specialist, a witchdoctor, and a local couple who run an organization called Parents of Swallowed Children and are keen to help.
Elvia’s parents are desperate to find her, but there’s no chance of that, for Elvia isn’t in the belly of a lion after all. She’s on a faraway planet called Urth, sailing on cruising submarine to a mysterious island called Amdar. Along the way, she meets a twelve-year-old boy with the unlikely name of Rats, who is also from Earth and shares an exciting secret. But can she save her new friend when the submarine slams into Amdar’s jagged coast during the highest tides of the year and Rats is trapped inside?