The Amazon Vine review programme sent me The Wells Bequest by Polly Shulman in exchange for my unbiased opinion.
I started reading this last Monday. My son had a day off school thanks to a teacher day, and as he was interested in the book I started reading it to him. We finished it yesterday, less than a week after starting it. He absolutely loved it and begged for more chapters every night. You can’t get much more of a glowing recommendation frankly, except to say that I loved it too.
The Wells Bequest tells the story of Leo Novikov, who comes from a family of science geeks. Desperately trying to think of something to do for his school science fair that will impress his family, he asks the school librarian for her advice. She suggests that he might be interested in visiting the New York Circulating Material Repository for inspiration.
Before he can get there he has a strange experience that shapes his destiny. He meets a tiny version of himself, and the most beautiful girl he has ever seen, riding a time machine, and telling him that he must read H. G. Wells’ Time Machine as well as some other things that really don’t make a lot of sense to him. Leo is sure he has gone a bit mad, until he turns up at the Circulating Repository to find the girl he was riding the time machine with, full sized and working behind the desk there. The girl, however, doesn’t know him. So what exactly is going on?
It is at this point that a fabulously inventive, incredibly clever time travel adventure starts to unfold. I won’t add any spoilers to this review, but I will say that it is packed full of adventure, wonderfully realised ideas and a brilliantly taut narrative that pulls you from chapter to chapter and leaves you dying to find out what happens next.
This is a companion book to the earlier: The Grimm Legacy, which Oscar and I have ordered on the strength of this book. Oscar is now haunting the letter box in the hope that it will arrive immediately. I’m quite excited about it myself.
The book is suitable for boys and girls aged 7-14. If a child is reading solo, they will need a little confidence as there are some complex names and terms in the book. The characters are in their teens and there is an element of romance here, but the most that happens is a bit of kissing. There is a smattering of violence, but nothing graphic and it is all perfectly contextual. The adventure elements are superbly handled and the book has a real, old fashioned, page turning quality to it that we loved. It is funny and exciting and has a perfect blend of fantasy, science fiction and science fact that will soon hook readers in to the story.
Whilst reading it I was reminded of Jon Scieszka’s book Frank Einstein which I reviewed on the blog last week. The Wells Bequest has quite a lot of science in it. It talks about parallel universes, quantum theory, Nikola Tesla’s inventions and those of his rival, Edison, among other things. Unlike Frank Einstein, where the science was tricky and needed explanations from me that interrupted the flow of the story, Shulman has blended these elements seamlessly within the narrative and made them part of the excitement of the adventure that Leo experiences. It is fantastic fun and educational without feeling like it’s hard work.