Thomas is a new student at the Pennybaker Hill Academy for the Uniquely Gifted. Thomas’ mom thinks he’s a chemistry genius, but in reality, Thomas is a magician. But any gift counts at Pennybaker – magic, juggling chainsaws, playing the didgeridoo.
Thomas is still trying to get used to Pennybaker – the uniform, the weird class names, the quirky kids – when the unimaginable happens. The statue of Mrs. Helen Heirmauser goes missing. Mrs. Heirmauser was a much-beloved math teacher at Pennybaker. The bust is a centerpiece of the school. Students bow to it when they walk by and speak of Mrs. Heirmauser reverently. To Thomas, though, the statue is just a weird head of some lady, yelling. This attitude makes Thomas the prime suspect in the theft, and soon he’s ostracized at school. Even his parents think he stole the head. Only his weird neighbor, Chip, is willing to help Thomas find the truth.
This was an odd, quirky little story that grew on me over time. Some of the writing patterns – like the different “adventures” Thomas names or his torture plans for Louis XIV felt over done at the start of the book. When they were sprinkled more sparingly in the story as it went on, they weren’t as distracting.
I felt bad for Thomas. Everyone turned on him so quickly, assuming the worst. I was especially frustrated that his parents believed the worst right from the start with little to no evidence or reason. Only Chip believed him. I enjoyed seeing Thomas and Chip become friends over the course of the book. Chip never really got any less weird, but Thomas started accepting him as he was, weirdness and all.
I think this would be a great book for readers who like unusual, odd characters and light mysteries. There were several laugh-out-loud moments in the story. I would recommend it to upper elementary students.
I received an electronic Advanced Reader Copy of this book. Thanks to Netgalley and Bloomsbury for the opportunity to read this book in exchange for an honest review.