Author: Bowditch, Eden Unger

Series: The Young Inventors Guild, Book Two

Publisher: Bancroft Press

ISBN-13: 78-1-61088-104-3

Following on The Atomic Weight of Secrets, with which The Young Inventors Guild series started, comes The Ravens of Solemano, or The Order of the Mysterious Men in Black. This novel for tweens has a great deal to do with invention and discovery, as well as with adventure and intrigue.

The Ravens of Solemano concerns a group of children who are whisked away from their homes all over the world (Faye Vigyanveta from Delhi, India; Jasper and Lucy Modest from London, England; Noah Canto-Sagas from Toronto, Canada; and Wallace Banneker from New York), to board a train that takes them to a laboratory-in-making set in a resort on Long Island, where they encounter the inventor Mr. Nikola Tesla. The fictional portrayal of this great physicist and futurist, who is most well-known for his contributions to the design of the modern alternating current electricity supply system, is both amusing and insightful. And this is only the start of their trans-Atlantic journey that takes them all the way across the Atlantic to arrive, finally, in the ancient Italian village of Solemano, set deep in the Apennine range of mountains, where they are met by an eerie silence that is penetrated by “the occasional howl of an Apennine wolf”. Eerie enough for you? Good.

Any tween with the slightest interest in science is likely to be drawn into this spirited tale of exploding trains and fantastic discoveries, including death rays and flying machines. Enough is explained of what has happened previously that even those who have not read the previous book in this series will be able to grasp the story line with ease, and to relate to the central characters (consisting of the children, their parents, and their teacher) from start to finish. The warmth and the integrity of the characters shines through in the way in which they care for one another, so that this is a pleasant and a comforting text, despite the weirdness of the situations in which the children find themselves. By the book also giving valuable insights into how the adults involved perceive and understand situations of crisis, specifically, the child reader is also able to gain perspective on what it feels like to be part of the adult world, with its attendant responsibilities.

The omnipresence of the children’s arch-enemy, Komar Romak, a somewhat Houdini-like character, who seemingly just won’t go away, at least in terms of thought, binds the children together in response to the common peril. The portrayal of the sense of camaraderie that prevails amongst these youngsters, who are so imminently at risk, especially when their parents are not around, should serve to capture the attention of the target audience of The Ravens of Solemano. Quite apart from the physical dangers to which they are subject, it is even more the ongoing dread of Romak that elicits their sense of responsibility towards one another. However, the humorous descriptions of the mysterious “men in black”, who, although they, on the one hand, are described as “no angels…[g]uardians or captors…a rather unlovable bunch”, are, on the other, portrayed as wearing such totally outlandish gear (“a bathing cap, a pair of dark goggles, and poofy trousers that seemed to tie at the ankles”), serve to alleviate the tension of the central plot.

This middle novel of a trilogy is so intriguing that it is highly likely to have you asking for the other two, too. Its sound ethical stance, without being in any way preachy, and its take on the many aspects of giftedness among preteens, should recommend it to any teacher or parent who believes in old-world values and holds them dear.

Follow Here To Purchase The Ravens of Solemano or The Order of the Mysterious Men in Black (The Young Inventors Guild)