A strong heroine and intriguing concept—but closer to one-third of an adventure than a whole one.


A middle school girl uses Leonardo da Vinci’s notebooks to build a time machine in this debut middle-grade novel.

Thirteen-year-old Charlotte Morton, called Charley, loves science, math, and language. She wants to do it all, like her hero Leonardo, “the ultimate Renaissance man.” She goes to Da Vinci Middle School (coincidentally enough) in Takoma Park, Maryland, with her friend Billy Vincenzo, a gearhead who is the school’s “geekiest eighth-grader,” and Beth, a former best friend gone boy-crazy. Visiting an exhibition at the Smithsonian on Leonardo’s Codex, Charley gets a great idea: re-create one of the artist’s sketched inventions for a science fair project. She’s convinced the device is a time machine, and she wants not just to construct it, but to travel back in time, meet Leonardo, interview him, and learn his secrets as well. A series of events and discoveries, including vivid dreams, a golden angle compass, a government computer, Charley’s father’s garage workshop, a captivating young man named Kairos, and a mathematical formula called the Qualia Rosetta—together with “an unforeseen kiss and an awkward misstep”—attempts to transport Charley back in time. Unfortunately, the tale ends rather abruptly. (Bonus chapters from Book 2 are appended.) Payes has an engaging heroine in Charley. She’s confident, hardworking, and curious; though she worries about homework, friends, and boys, she also is consumed with finding answers to serious questions like who we are and why we’re here. Charley’s friends are well-drawn and believable too. Though it goes unexplored, it’s interesting that their world is fairly privileged. Charley’s father, for example, does something secret and science-y in government, and her mother is a concert violinist. Leonardo is, of course, worthy of Charley’s enthusiasm, and there’s enough real science to make the story’s time travel seem more than just a magical transition. But, after all the buildup, it’s a huge disappointment that Charley’s exploits are over so soon, and a lot to ask of readers that they stay tuned indefinitely for the conclusion.

A strong heroine and intriguing concept—but closer to one-third of an adventure than a whole one.

Pub Date: Feb. 24, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-937650-83-4

Page Count: 138

Publisher: Small Batch Books

Review Posted Online: June 27, 2017

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While a few weeks ago it seemed as if Praeger would have a two month lead over Dutton in their presentation of this Soviet best seller, both the "authorized" edition (Dutton's) and the "unauthorized" (Praeger's) will appear almost simultaneously. There has been considerable advance attention on what appears to be as much of a publishing cause celebre here as the original appearance of the book in Russia. Without entering into the scrimmage, or dismissing it as a plague on both your houses, we will limit ourselves to a few facts. Royalties from the "unauthorized" edition will go to the International Rescue Committee; Dutton with their contracted edition is adhering to copyright conventions. The Praeger edition has two translators and one of them is the translator of Doctor Zhivago Dutton's translator, Ralph Parker, has been stigmatized by Praeger as "an apologist for the Soviet regime". To the untutored eye, the Dutton translation seems a little more literary, the Praeger perhaps closer to the rather primitive style of the original. The book itself is an account of one day in the three thousand six hundred and fifty three days of the sentence to be served by a carpenter, Ivan Denisovich Shukhov. (Solzhenitsyn was a political prisoner.) From the unrelenting cold without, to the conditions within, from the bathhouse to the latrine to the cells where survival for more than two weeks is impossible, this records the hopeless facts of existence as faced by thousands who went on "living like this, with your eyes on the ground". The Dutton edition has an excellent introduction providing an orientation on the political background to its appearance in Russia by Marvin Kalb. All involved in its publication (translators, introducers, etc.) claim for it great "artistic" values which we cannot share, although there is no question of its importance as a political and human document and as significant and tangible evidence of the de-Stalinization program.

Pub Date: June 15, 1963

ISBN: 0451228146

Page Count: 181

Publisher: Praeger

Review Posted Online: Oct. 5, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 1963

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The phrase “tour de force” could have been invented for this audacious novel.

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Four men who meet as college roommates move to New York and spend the next three decades gaining renown in their professions—as an architect, painter, actor and lawyer—and struggling with demons in their intertwined personal lives.

Yanagihara (The People in the Trees, 2013) takes the still-bold leap of writing about characters who don’t share her background; in addition to being male, JB is African-American, Malcolm has a black father and white mother, Willem is white, and “Jude’s race was undetermined”—deserted at birth, he was raised in a monastery and had an unspeakably traumatic childhood that’s revealed slowly over the course of the book. Two of them are gay, one straight and one bisexual. There isn’t a single significant female character, and for a long novel, there isn’t much plot. There aren’t even many markers of what’s happening in the outside world; Jude moves to a loft in SoHo as a young man, but we don’t see the neighborhood change from gritty artists’ enclave to glitzy tourist destination. What we get instead is an intensely interior look at the friends’ psyches and relationships, and it’s utterly enthralling. The four men think about work and creativity and success and failure; they cook for each other, compete with each other and jostle for each other’s affection. JB bases his entire artistic career on painting portraits of his friends, while Malcolm takes care of them by designing their apartments and houses. When Jude, as an adult, is adopted by his favorite Harvard law professor, his friends join him for Thanksgiving in Cambridge every year. And when Willem becomes a movie star, they all bask in his glow. Eventually, the tone darkens and the story narrows to focus on Jude as the pain of his past cuts deep into his carefully constructed life.  

The phrase “tour de force” could have been invented for this audacious novel.

Pub Date: March 10, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-385-53925-8

Page Count: 720

Publisher: Doubleday

Review Posted Online: Dec. 22, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2015

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