Illustrator: Theresa Chiechi
Published by Zonderkidz on April 6, 2021
Genres: Action & Adventure, Middle Grade, Science Fiction
Source: The Publisher
Cover Artist: Tim Lane
An orphan named Leo discovers clues to his past when he finds a series of tunnels below his school. But to unlock the answers, he’ll need every skill and invention he has—even if his inventions don’t always work.
A “lifer” at the secluded Academy of Florence, Leo has never met his parents ... or anyone in his family for that matter. His current “family” is his mechanical monkey and robot lion, who along with his charming best friend and fellow lifer, Savvy, only get him into trouble. But after Leo’s latest experiment goes catastrophically wrong, he finds a mysterious clue that opens an underground maze—one that seems to have been created for him to solve.
Leo hopes the tunnels will help him discover the identities of his parents and the reason he’s an orphan in the first place. Instead, he finds that his past and possibly even his future is somehow linked to the innovative Wynn Toys company, whose genius president mysteriously disappeared years before.
Leo must use his creativity and scientific know-how to revive the toy company, oust its dastardly leader, and discover the fate of his real family.
LEO re-imagines Leonardo DaVinci as a modern-day kid, incorporating many of DaVinci’s inventions and other exciting Renaissance-era details. Many elements of the story are pulled from Renaissance art or the great minds of the period and given a modern twist! I labeled the book sci-fi, but that’s just the closest I could come to a genre for it—it takes place in a world that seems like a slightly more scientifically advanced version of our own? At any rate, the tech takes center stage!
LEO tells the story of a thirteen-year-old genius with a knack for inventions that tend to go a little haywire. He’s lived his whole life at a special academy and has no idea who his family is. As I mentioned, Leo is undeniably inventive, but his creations tend to go terribly wrong, and he’s become known for his ability to destroy stuff more than for his incredible mind. Then, one day, Leo finds a mysterious tunnel beneath the academy filled with strange puzzles that unlock even more tunnels—and a few surprises. I don’t want to give away too much about what Leo discovers or the series of events that unfolds because of it, but I will say that Leo discovers some of the secrets of his past!
This book is absolutely chock-full of action and adventure, usually in the form of crazy inventions and scientific discoveries. The madcap adventures never let up. My favorite characters were actually Leo’s two robotic pets—they were a wild mix of adorableness and cutting-edge technology! The story wraps up nicely, but there’s definitely an open door left for future books as well. I highly recommend this book for kids who are interested in science or tech—they’ll find themselves learning while they enjoy a sci-fi-ish adventure!
***Disclosure: I received this book from the publisher via Kaye’s Publicity for review purposes. No other compensation was given and all opinions are my own.***
(I especially liked reading about Leonardo DaVinci’s actual mechanical lion.)
About the Author
Luke X. Cunningham is an Emmy-nominated writer from Philadelphia. Previously, he spent three years as a writer for The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon. He developed a passion for the Renaissance while earning a history degree from Brown University. He currently lives in Los Angeles, CA, with his wife and their son, Finn. LEO: Inventor Extraordinaire is his first novel.