Ravens of Solemano
Written by Eden Unger Bowditch
Illustrated by Mary Grace Corpus
The brilliant children of the Young Inventors Guild are in danger again. In the second installment of the Young Inventors Guild series, their relief at escaping from the evil Komar Romak and the joy of being reunited with their parents is short-lived. The group travels in luxury aboard a train that is suddenly blown up. They are not on the train but their parents appear to be. In a haze of grief and pain, their teacher, Miss Brett, and the five children are swept away by the mysterious men in black, those men who barely speak English but manage to keep them one step ahead of death. Jasper and his sister Lucy Modest are from England; Wallace Banneker is from New York, Noah Canto-Sagas is from Toronto and Faye Vigyanveta is from New Delhi. They continue to build their relationship, learning one another’s strengths and weaknesses, and become a team in order to survive and do the work that each is drawn to do. After a harrowing sea voyage and near discovery, they are taken to a lovely manor house in a small village in Italy. There they are safe to work and explore the grounds. They especially like the village baker, a warm, affectionate woman who bakes them all sorts of treats. The house is a haven but they also discover that it is a vast library of all the brilliant inventors before them. When Komar Romak attacks them once again, they barely escape and can only hope that the manuscripts in the subterranean library are still intact. Because the children work together, their escape is especially satisfying.
There are new situations for the children to explore as they travel, when they are not in danger, that is. Each part of the adventure is filled with amazing inventions and tantalizing mysteries that hint at the centuries-old Guild at the heart of the story. Reading the first installment is recommended. The girl characters are the most believable: Faye pushes everyone away so she deals with trust issues, and Lucy has a perfect memory but remains a babyish little girl. The boy characters tend to be defined by their role in the group: Jasper takes care of Lucy, Noah is a clown and Wallace is painfully shy. Much of the story is told through Miss Brett’s point of view although there is not a clear main character. One literacy activity could be to write a description of each character and list their inventions as a way to predict how they will defeat Komar Romak. The illustrations at the beginning of each chapter are enticing and other illustrations help explain how the inventions work. The author’s website has a certificate for the Young Inventors Guild: (http://www.younginventorsguild.com/), which could be a prize for reading games. There is an interesting YouTube video about the author being in Egypt during the revolution while trying to finish the first installment of the series, The Atomic Weight of Secrets: (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fQrlP1ZjwOM). Each volume is very long. Strong readers will take to this series.