or The Arrival of the Mysterious Men in Black
Author: Eden Unger Bowditch
Format: galley (available for purchase in hardcover)
Publisher: Bancroft Press
Release Date: 3/15/2011
Length: 320 pages
Acquired: from the publisher via NetGalley
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?
What a very odd story. Very odd. Rather sad and rather confusing and rather unfulfilling, once the last page is turned.
That’s not to say that I didn’t enjoy it. Because I did… very much. I’m just feeling a bit let down, like I didn’t get the big reveal I was expecting and quite looking forward to.
I’m left with questions that I was expecting answers to but didn’t get. Questions such as, what were the items that several of the parents took from their children before disappearing mysteriously and why did their parents need them so badly? What was The Strange Round Bird song all about and how did all of the children know it to the exclusion of any and all other lullabies or nursery rhymes? What was the polymer that Wallace was working on so diligently? Who are the men in black and what was this story all about?
Perhaps it’s all just a set-up for the rest of the series, I thought. Perhaps the big plot point was indeed, the children’s invention and maybe the majority of the story revolved around that one thing: the children handing their invention over to the brothers. Which, I ought to mention, was fantastically funny in a “wink-wink-nudge-nudge” kind of way.
I also mentioned that this story was rather sad. As the summary of the book states, the children are all taken from their parents and thrust into a wholly unfamiliar situation with no explanation whatsoever. Their parents disappear with and the people into whose care the children are placed either don’t know what’s happening or won’t say. The children don’t know who to trust. They’re angry and scared, upset at their apparent abandonment while being half out of their minds with worry for their parents. Despite having absolutely brilliant minds, they’re still children and so naturally have trouble adjusting to a confusing and frightening situation… hence the sad.
I’m hoping that the second book in the series will reveal a few of the tibits that Bowditch left behind the curtain in this first installment. I’ll definitely check out the next book but there will have to be a bit more meat in the story to keep my interest and keep me reading.
‘It was precisely because of this strange black attire that Jasper knew this man was there to fetch them, and was not some nefarious stranger out to do them harm. Well, he might well be a nefarious stranger out to do them harm but, if so, he was their own personal nefarious stranger, and Jasper knew they had no choice but to follow.’ ~as reasoned by Jasper Modest
“Don’t ‘don’t’ me. Don’t you dare ‘I don’t’ me when you know I know you know you do, you know, I do, don’t you, hm?” ~Reginald Roderick Kattaning