Reading/Interest Level: Intermediate, Young Adult
Author: Trenton Lee Stewart
Illustrator: Diana Sudyka
Publisher: Little, Brown and Company
New Umbra is ruled by the mastermind 'the Smoke.' Twelve-year-old Reuben is aloof to the city’s political problems until he discovers a mysterious watch which turns him invisible when he winds it. The Smoke’s agents zero in on him, so Reuben leaves home to protect his mother and find the watch’s true owner. This leads him to the Meyer family. Because of their family’s legend with the watch, siblings Penny and Jack Meyer agree to help Reuben overthrow the Smoke. From their snooping, they realize Smoke has an invisibility watch too. The Smoke wants both watches to prolong his life and reign of terror. Reuben, Jack, and Penny try to take the second watch, but the Smoke and his booby-trapped house delay their plans until the Smoke falls into his own trap. With both watches in their custody, Reuben and Penny throw them into the sea.
Stewart expertly creates another unique middle-grade masterpiece full of puzzles, humor, and suspense. But the clever clues don’t overshadow the emotional depth of Stewart’s book. Before finding the watch, Reuben’s life was difficult. He father was killed and his mother struggles to provide for them. These trials rule Reuben’s life, not the political problems caused by the Smoke. When Reuben finds and uses the watch, he temporarily escapes his life by invisibility. But as Reuben gets entangled with the Smoke, Reuben realizes the Smoke’s addiction to the watch is the reason behind all the suffering in New Umbra. It’s a difficult realization for Reuben, but once he lets go of the watch, everyone flourishes, including himself. A fantastic read for ages twelve and up.