Friday, June 3, 2011

The Atomic Weight of Secrets, or, The Arrival of the Mysterious Men in Black: The Young Inventors' Guild, Book One, by Eden Unger Bowditch--Review

Bancroft Press, ISBN 97816160880022, March 2011

It's 1903, and five children suddenly find themselves and their parents whisked away from their homes all over the world, to Dayton, Ohio, by mysterious men dressed entirely in black. The children are then separated from their parents, and brought together as the only students of Miss Brett, at Sole Manner Farm.

The children's parents are brilliant scientists, and the children themselves--Faye, Jasper, Lucy, Noah, and Wallace--are also budding young brilliant scientists. Miss Brett is startled to discover that she has nothing to teach them in the realm of science and mathematics, and equally startled to discover that they have never encountered stories, rhymes, songs, any form of literature. (Or cooking, either; Faye, for instance, has never seen eggs in their uncooked form.) They abandon the intended lesson plan, and the children expand Miss Brett's knowledge of science, while she introduces them to literature and cooking.

Meanwhile, the children worry about the absence of their parents and the lack of any word from them, and about the fact that the Men in Black are patrolling around the farm, ensuring that they cannot escape. But these are not your ordinary scared children. They act out their fear by trying to investigate the Men in Black, and invent the means to escape from the farm, and find and rescue their parents. In the process, these children who have never had good school experiences because they knew even more than their teachers, who have never had encounters that didn't end badly because they are accustomed to always being the smartest, have to learn how to work together as a team. The mechanical genius, the chemistry genius, the photographic memory, the budding young draftsman who can make "sketches" that are good working blueprints, all need to learn mutual respect and trust, and pool those talents.

They also need to take in a good deal of conflicting and confusing evidence, and figure out who in the adult world are their friends, and who are their enemies.

In addition to some definite science-fictional elements, there's also a strong element of secret history here, and saying more than that would reveal some critical plot elements far too soon.

This is a good, solid, young adult science fiction novel, probably accessible to readers somewhat below the intended age range. It is the first of a series, but does come to a reasonably satisfying interim conclusion.


I received a free electronic galley of this book from the publisher via NetGalley.


  1. That sounds very cute, I'll have to go look for it. Thanks!

  2. Great review, Lis! I love your grasp of the characters and your description of how difficult it really is for them to learn to work together.