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The Atomic Weight of Secrets or The Arrival of the Mysterious Men in Black by Eden Unger Bowditch gives late elementary and middle school readers adventure, mystery, suspense and a cast of clever characters that will have them turning pages way past bedtime. Five young inventors are taken from their scientist parents in 1903 to an isolated farm in Ohio. They are under constant surveillance and believe that they and their parents may be in serious danger.

The author leads the reader to evaluate the role of the mysterious men in black. Are they there to protect the children or keep them separated from their parents? The seemingly never-ending variety of disguises for these mysterious men will puzzle and intrigue the reader and adds an element of humour to the more frightening moments that occur for the characters.

The characters grow and learn valuable life lessons: selfishness isolates, teamwork gets the job done, listening to the ideas of others benefits everyone and friendship is more valuable than personal gain. These lessons help them to become more well-rounded children who develop a deeper appreciation for friendship in general and their new bonds in particular.

The dialogue is clever and the author is an excellent wordsmith for children. Lines like: “Then Faye dug out her pouting face and tried it on again.” entertain and engage the reader deeper into the story. The only negative aspect I found was the alternate chapter titles. These became a bit tedious and could have been left out.

The reader is left begging for more and will be delighted to find the prologue for book two at the end of the story. Hopefully there will be many more adventures to come.

I give this book 4 stars out of 5.

I received this book free from the publisher through NetGalley. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. This book will be published 15 Mar 2011 by Bancroft Press.

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