What is this about?: What is the weirdest, most best thing you’ve ever wanted? Eat and never put on weight? Have a third leg? Become alllluring? Well, The Instititute of Fanastical Inventions makes all that happen because science is MAGIC!
What else is this about?: Science! And okay, espionage and a ton of creative, weird inventions.
Leo McGuffin has the best job in the world. He works for the Institute of Fantastical Inventions making people’s fantasies come true. Want to float around the house like a bubble and pop at midnight? No problem. Have you secretly always wanted to be an astronaut but were too short, too round or had poor eyesight? Never fear, the IFI can make it happen. And though Leo is a talented scientist, his people skills leave a lot to be desired: witness his relationship with colleague, Dr Andrea Allsop.
When boy wonder Edward joins up with Leo, they help boring Roger Mumble become an international man of mystery. Then the pair uncover a dastardly plan to steal and sell the Institute’s array of magnificent inventions, threatening the very existence of the organisation Leo loves. Can Leo, Edward, Dr Andrea Allsop and the mysterious Roger Mumble outwit the spies and save the Institute from ruin
When I attended the launch for The Institute of Fantastical Inventions, the author Dave Leys mentioned that the writing for this book just flowed from his fingertips. And after having read the book, I’ve translated that into: Dave let his imagination run wild because this book is FUN.
And also, advocates that science is fun, which is a great thing to be teaching middle-graders who are about to head into sciencey type things at school.
Leo McGuffin is a scientist at The Institute of Fanastical Inventions (IFI) where he creates all manner of things for clients who want the impossible – like you want to be able to be memorable, with a dash of being enigmatic like a spy? Leo can make it happen. And he does too! The author takes his time introducing readers to Leo, the IFI and Edward, Leo’s young, intelligent assistant and their colleagues at the IFI as they try to make clients’ deepest wishes come true – like one Roger Mumble – who as the blurb says, wants to be a man of mystery.
It’s this care that makes it easy to empathise with Leo, and his colleagues as they try to make clients happy.
There are a wealth of wonderful characters around Leo, ones that are laugh-out-loud funny, and that in turn is complemented wonderfully by the gorgeous illustrations from Shane Ogilvie. In particular, Dr Allsop, who bears the brunt of Leo’s … well, everything he does, and is dearly glad to be transferred away from him, until of course, Leo screws that up too.
Because there’s a mystery to be solved!
Yeah, I didn’t expect that either. In between the science and the wonderful inventions, there’s a touch of (funny) corporate espionage going on, and it’s up to Leo, Edward and a few helpers to save the day. And if you think it’s as simple as that, it’s really not because the book really does advocate for science, and complex inventions and creativity all being fun in the best way – with a dash of standing up for yourself if you are just that sort of kid. Leo is not a bad role model at all for kids to be looking up to.
Above all else, this book is genuine fun and I promise is going to make you and your kid laugh.