Mathematics, humor and fantasy just don’t add up in this awkward, misguided effort.
A magic hat, a missing parent, not one but two eccentric adult acquaintances and a couple of travelers from outer space all complicate 10-year-old Brooklyn-born Flor Bernoulli’s life in this briskly paced adventure. Unfortunately, the convoluted plot, flat characters and sometimes-too-obvious (a thin woman known as Mrs. Plump), sometimes-obscure (a cat called Libenits) wordplay combine to make Neimark’s first novel for children decidedly less than the sum of its parts (she wrote Bloodsong, 1993, for adults as Jill Neimark). Flor’s escapades start when she discovers that the friendly local baker, Dr. Pi (really), is actually the protector of a secret recipe—make that math equation—that allows him to, among other things, see the future and slow down time. Like Flor, readers are likely to say “I’m sorry, but I have no idea what you’re talking about.” Since they’re free to put the book down, though, it’s unlikely they’ll bother to travel through time and space, across oceans and down spiraling lighthouse stairs, into a “mending a broken family” story and back home again for the resurrection of a dead alien only to discover that the whole long saga is apparently a set-up for the next installment.Tedious, frustrating and utterly impenetrable. (Fantasy. 9-11)