Bancroft Press has been so gracious as to allow me review an ARC of this novel, through Netgalley, prior to the novel hitting bookstores March 15th. So, without further ado, here’s the synopsis from Goodreads: “In 1903, five truly brilliant young inventors, the children of the world’s most important scientists, went about their lives and their work as they always had. But all that changed the day the men in black arrived. They arrived to take twelve-year-old Jasper Modest and his six-year-old sister, Lucy he with his remarkable creations and she with her perfect memory from their London, England home to a place across the ocean they’d never seen before. They arrived to take nine-year-old Wallace Banneker, last in a long line of Africa-descended scientists, from his chemistry, his father, and his New York home to a life he d never imagined. Twelve-year-old Noah Canto-Sagas, already missing his world-famous and beloved mother, was taken from Toronto, Canada, carrying only his clothes, his violin, and his remarkable mind. And thirteen-year-old Faye Vigyanveta, the genius daughter of India’s wealthiest and most accomplished scientists, was removed by force from her life of luxury. From all across the world, they’ve been taken to mysterious Sole Manner Farm, and a beautiful but isolated schoolhouse in Dayton, Ohio, without a word from their parents as to why. Not even the wonderful schoolteacher they find there, Miss Brett, can explain it. She can give them love and care, but she can t give them answers. Things only get stranger from there. What is the book with no pages Jasper and Lucy find in their mother’s underwear drawer, and why do the men in black want it so badly? How is it all the children have been taught the same bizarre poem and yet no other rhymes or stories their entire lives? And why haven’t their parents tried to contact them? Whatever the reasons, to brash, impetuous Faye, the situation is clear: They and their parents have been kidnapped by these terrible men in black, and the only way they’re going to escape and rescue their parents is by completing the invention they didn’t even know they were all working on an invention that will change the world forever. But what if the men in black aren’t trying to harm the children? What if they’re trying to protect them? And if they’re trying to protect them, from what?”
If you have young children, say between second and fifth grade, I highly recommend this novel (for them, or for you to read to them). There are some great themes brought to light, such as the importance of friendship, perseverance, and trust. The descriptions of the men in black will have young readers laughing and yearning for more, as will the dialogue between the characters. I believe children will be captivated by the mysteries in the novel, however, as it is a very long novel, I am not sure how long the captivation will last. On a literary level, I found the novel a little tedious, and much too long. The first chapter picks up in the middle of the story, and it peaks the reader’s interest, but then the story teeters off into background information, explaining how the children came to be where they are. It takes a full 200 pages for the story to come back to the original plot, and I felt like some of the story could have been removed without being detrimental to the book as a whole. Aside from being extremely long, I also feel the ending is anticlimactic. After reading 300+ pages, I expected to find out where the parents were and what they had been doing, but no conclusive ending presented itself. As this is a series book, the sequel will probably shed more light on the subject, but as the reader, I felt the ending of this novel was a letdown. I am not sure how young readers will respond to this book, so I will need to do some research on that, especially since I’m not really interested in juvenile literature. I admit reading this was a struggle for me, but that doesn’t mean you won’t like it; it only means it wasn’t for me. Two stars.
Let me know what your children think after they read it!