The Wells Bequest



Absorbing, fast-paced sci-fi fantasy hinges on time machine.

What parents need to know

Educational value

Kids will learn about New York City in the 1890s and 19th century celebrities Mark Twain, electrical engineer and futurist Nicola Tesla, and African -American inventor Louis Lattimer. They'll see the Dewey Decimal Classification System at work with the creation of call numbers for unlikely objects such as time machines.

Positive messages

This novel praises a "can-do" approach to solving problems, honoring imagination and creativity.

Positive role models

The only one in his family who isn't a scientific genius, Leo surprises everyone -- including himself -- when he's able to solve the mystery related to H.G. Wells' time machine. His search demands ingenuity, bravery, determination and a sense of humor. Jaya, who works with him at the unique circulating library, is knowledgeable, clever, resourceful, and ready for any adventure that's going to help the world.


A fire burns down a laboratory. Also, Simon, in a rage, threatens to shoot Jaya and destroy New York City if she and Leo refuse to relinquish the time machine.


An amazed Jaya learns to like and respect Leo, who has had a crush on her since he first set eyes on her. There's one romantic kiss.

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Drinking, drugs, & smoking
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Parents Need to Know

Parents need to know that The Wells Bequest is a companion to The Grimm Legacy and also features the New York City Circulating Material Repository, but it's not necessary to have read that book first. This volume has many mathematical calculations, several scientific references, and in-depth speculation and exploration surrounding H.G. Wells' time machine, as well as Nicola Tesla's supposed work on a death ray. Some sensitive readers may be disturbed by the villain's threat to destroy New York City unless he can have the time machine.

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What's the story?

Leo's startled when a tiny machine whirs into his bedroom and inside it he sees a six-inch version of himself seated with a beautiful miniature girl both dressed in old-fashioned clothes. After it departs, Leo's search for this extraordinary machine takes him to the New York City Circulating Material Repository, where he meets Jaya and recognizes her as the very girl he saw in his room. His quest for the extraordinary machine and the two kids' attempts to make it work ultimately take them time traveling to London in the 1890s. There they hunt for the prototype and seek to warn a scientist of imminent danger to his work. Although they find the intricate plans, Simon, from the British Repository in London, demands the machine. He threatens them with death and destruction if they don't relinquish it and all its secrets. Can Leo and Jaya prevent a catastrophe?


Is it any good?


Despite some odd people and even stranger events, THE WELLS BEQUEST is written with enough authenticity to seem thoroughly believable. This fast-paced sci-fi fantasy is filled with adventure, humor, a hint of romance, and enough tension to keep you turning page after page. 

Leo and Jaya are likeable. While they are both shrinking and growing physically in pursuit of their goal, it's Leo who matures and earns respect from Jaya, his supervisor, and his family.  Most important, he learns to respect himself. 

Families can talk about...

  • Families can talk about self-esteem. Does Leo have to be exactly what his parents expect or want?  Is he a failure because he's different from the rest of the family?

  • Why do you think stories involving time travel are so popular? What others have you read?

  • How important is creativity and imagination in Leo's search? Have you ever solved a problem by thinking "outside the box" the way Leo does?

Book details

Author:Polly Shulman
Genre:Science Fiction
Topics:Magic and fantasy, Adventures, Friendship, Great boy role models, Great girl role models, History, Science and nature
Book type:Fiction
Publisher:Penguin Young Readers Group
Publication date:June 13, 2013
Number of pages:248
Publisher's recommended age(s):10 - 12
Available on:Nook, Audiobook (unabridged), Hardback, iBooks, Kindle

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Learning ratings

  • Best: Really engaging; great learning approach.
  • Very Good: Engaging; good learning approach.
  • Good: Pretty engaging; good learning approach.
  • Fair: Somewhat engaging; OK learning approach.
  • Not for Learning: Not recommended for learning.
  • Not for Kids: Not age-appropriate for kids; not recommended for learning.

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