Title: The Inventor’s Secret
Author: Chad Morris
Series: Cragbridge Hall #1
Genre: Middle Grade
Rating: 4/5 stars
The Overview: Imagine a school in the year 2074 where students don’t read history, but watch it happen around them; where running in gym class isn’t around a track, but up a virtual mountain; and where learning about animals means becoming one through an avatar. Welcome to Cragbridge Hall, the most advanced and prestigious school in the world. Twin siblings Abby and Derick Cragbridge are excited as new students to use their famed grandfather’s inventions that make Cragbridge Hall so incredible. But when their grandfather and parents go missing, the twins begin following a trail of clues left by their grandfather. They must find out where their family is, learn who they can trust, and discover what secrets are hidden within Cragbridge Hall. Abby and Derick soon realize they are caught in a race with a fierce adversary to discover their grandfather’s greatest secret–a dangerous discovery that could alter both history and reality.
There came a point in my life where I realized I just wasn’t enjoying middle grade books as much as I used to. It was a horrifying discovery because, after all, these were the titles I grew up on – the very genre that nurtured my love of reading. Nowadays, it takes a remarkable-sounding novel to even get me interested. The Inventor’s Secret was among those exceptions.
It had all of the adventure I was hoping for, but also had some other cool, unexpected elements. For one, there was an overall mystery that held some appeal for my adult tastes: Abby and Derick had to solve a series of clues left by their grandfather to figure out what happened to both him and their parents. Combine the puzzle-solving tasks with some really neat classroom challenges, and I was sold. Those challenges even reminded me of the obstacles Harry Potter faced while going after the Sorcerer’s Stone… Resonance.
The Inventor’s Secret also introduced something that gives my inner child a major geek-out: ANIMAL AVATARS!!! How cool is that? I always love books that incorporate wildlife, and the unique presentation of this concept is what initially drew me to the book. Essentially, these kids are hooked up to a computer that transfers their minds over to mechanical animals (oh, how I wish I was a student at this school). This element reminded me of the Animorphs series by Applegate, which gets extra credit for sparking my love of reading when I was ten… More resonance.
As much as I love mystery, adventure, and animal avatars, I also love when I feel like I’ve learned something from a book (be it potion-making, science, basket weaving, whatever!). I liked this one, especially because it took an ordinary school subject, history, and made it fun! The classrooms were equipped with virtual projectors that surrounded the students with scenes from the past, essentially making them part of the action. Morris made history come alive while simultaneously making me want to learn more about each event (I don’t know exactly how accurate the references were, but I imagine they were well researched). Add all of that awesomeness to some good old time-travel, and the possibilities are endless.
You can see how many great elements this book brought to the table. There was honestly nothing I didn’t like about it. The writing was geared more towards younger readers than Fablehaven or Harry Potter, but not by much. All in all, I highly recommend this title and am excited for the sequel.
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