Reviews provided by Syndetics
Publishers Weekly Review
Eleven-year-old Nicholas Funes, a musical and mathematical genius and all-around outcast, tells this adventure story through notes left behind in a dresser drawer, leading readers to believe that something awful has befallen him. Quirky Nicholas (his closest relationship is with a tree planted in memory of his deceased brother) meets his ex-con grandfather, whose disjointed tale of missing family heirlooms gives Nicholas hope to save his family's house. "Help me find what I buried, and you won't lose anything," promises Grandpa Rose. Other misfits, young and old, join in the search for the heirlooms and form a tight bond. Smugglers caves, graveyards, ghost houses, séances, and tattooed maps come together to make an intriguing mystery for the group to solve as the characters wrestle with their past selves in hopes of a better future. The story is enhanced with musical and mathematical notations (terms like "forte" and "piano" appear as subscript throughout, modifying actions and dialogue), giving readers a glimpse into Nicholas's impressive brain and adding an unusual layer of interest and beauty to debut author Baker's storytelling. Ages 8-12. Agent: Sarah Burnes, Gernert Company. (Mar.) © Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
School Library Journal Review
Gr 4-6-Eleven-year-old Nicholas is a music and math genius who has trouble relating to most people. Baker has placed small italicized musical dynamics (forte, pianissimo, crescendo) throughout the text, emphasizing Nick's thought patterns. When his family home is in jeopardy of being sold, Nick takes it upon himself to find legendary family heirlooms, hoping they can save his house. Despite his lack of social skills, he gains the help of other social misfits from school as well as two grandfathers sprung from a nursing home, one being his senile Grandpa Rose. Their hideout is a crumbling, haunted house where they all work at unraveling the clues to finding the treasure. Throughout comical, quirky scenarios involving a sEance, a confrontation with high school toughs in smuggler tunnels, and romps in a graveyard where the final clue and solution is found, Baker maintains a steady pace. Written with tongue-in-cheek humor, the characters engage in some unsafe and unsavory practices as they go about their adventures-dueling with firecrackers, setting fire to stolen backpacks, lying, and stealing. In the hands of savvy, mature readers, this intriguing and multilayered novel will provoke interesting discussions.-D. Maria LaRocco, Cuyahoga Public Library, Strongsville, OH (c) Copyright 2014. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
*Starred Review* In a small town on the shore of Lake Michigan, a thief, a bully, a genius, and a geriatric ex-con form an unlikely group brought together by the promise of buried treasure. Nicholas, an 11-year-old math and music prodigy, isn't used to being unable to solve a problem; however, when financial problems force his family to put their house on the market, he can't devise a way for them to keep their home or the very special tree growing in its backyard. That changes the day Nicholas' grandfather comes to town, fresh out of prison and rambling about lost family heirlooms. His mind failing, Grandpa Rose only remembers a few cryptic clues about the heirlooms' location. Two boys from school join Nicholas in the search, each with his own reasons for wanting a cut of the loot. Baker has written a Goonies-esque adventure filled with ghosts, smugglers' tunnels, and mystery and yet, there is more to this story than fortune hunting. The vivid setting, complex characters, and original writing style result in a story with lasting impact. Reminiscent of Louis Sachar's Holes (1998), this is a rich, captivating tale about family and redemption that redefines the meaning of treasure.--Smith, Julia Copyright 2014 Booklist
Horn Book Review
Nicholas, an eleven-year-old math and music prodigy, must find Grandpa Rose's heirlooms to save his family's home where his beloved stillborn brother is buried beneath a backyard tree. Misfit allies (young and old), tattoo clues, smugglers' tunnels, and siances make for a lively treasure-hunt adventure. Music and math notations appear throughout the text, effectively and cleverly underscoring Nicholas's quirky voice. (c) Copyright 2015. The Horn Book, Inc., a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
Kirkus Book Review
Middle school misfit Nicholas embarks on a wild adventure involving long-lost family heirlooms.Nicholas is a science whiz, a music prodigy and a math genius. He has no friends and is bullied by almost everyone. His stillborn brother is buried in the backyard under a pine tree planted in his memory. Nicholas speaks to him via his violin and hears his voice in the air. He may lose this all-important relationship if his parents are forced to sell their home. His life is further complicated by the arrival of his ex-con, senile grandfather, whose rambling memories hint at buried treasure. When fellow misfits Jordan and Zeke, along with Jordan's grandfather, form an unholy alliance with Nicholas, they uncover multiple secrets: a haunted house, a mysterious island, shipwrecks, gangsters and more. Convoluted clues, lots of red herrings, interference and danger from many directions all result in a not-so-merry chasefor the characters, though not for readers. As they careen from one mad adventure to another, the boys also discover truths about themselves and how to negotiate the morass of emotions and relationships that form the social jungle. Baker has Nicholas speak directly to readers in the form of annotations, using musical terms like "forte" and "glissando" to indicate voice tones. Nicholas' voice is so earnest and endearing that readers will root for his success. Lively, entertaining and satisfying. (Adventure. 9-12) Copyright Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.