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Imagine a school in the year 2074 where students don't read history, but watch it happen around them; where running in gym class isn't around a track, but up a virtual mountain; and where learning about animals means becoming one through an avatar. Welcome to Cragbridge Hall, the most advanced and prestigious school in the world.
Twins Abby and Derick Cragbridge are excited as new students to use their famed grandfather's inventions that make Cragbridge Hall so incredible. But when their grandfather and parents go missing, the twins must follow a mysterious trail of clues left by their grandfather. They must find out where their family is, learn who they can trust, and discover what secrets are hidden within Cragbridge Hall.
Abby and Derick soon realize they are caught in a race with a fierce adversary to discover their grandfather's greatest secret — a dangerous discovery that could alter both history and reality.
- Book on CD: Unabridged, 7 discs
About the Author
Chad Morris grew up wanting to become a professional basketball player or a rock star. (Inspired by Animal from the Muppets, he’s been banging on drums since he was eight years old.) After high school, he wrote and performed sketch comedy while going to college, and eventually he became a teacher and a curriculum writer. He lives in Utah with his wife and five kids.
Chad would love to teach at Cragbridge Hall. Unlike Oscar Cragbridge, however, he hasn’t really invented anything, though his son once sketched out blueprints for a machine that would turn celery into cookies.
Abby waved at various security cameras on the front
porch. She knew they were just machines, but she waved just the same. They wouldn’t notice her sandy blonde hair, her light runner’s build, or her brown eyes. They simply scanned her, matching her fingerprints and facial features to those authorized to enter. Abby heard the locking mechanism slide open, and a thin light above the door handle turned green. She opened the door and stepped in, her twin brother, Derick, and her parents only a step behind her.
“Hello, Grandpa,” Abby called out.
She loved the smell of Grandpa’s place—a mixture of hot cocoa and ready-made dinners. There was also a hint of old smell—like the carpet and furniture hadn’t been replaced for decades—but she chose to ignore it.
The floorboards creaked as the family passed the living room and walked down the hall toward the den. Abby couldn’t remember for sure, but she thought the house was built way back before the turn of the century—like 1997 or something. Funny that the man famous for making the greatest leaps in modern technology lived in such an old, dusty place.
As they neared the den, Abby saw her grandfather sitting in his favorite chair in a room lined with bookshelves. A couple of slightly newer couches and a pair of tall lamps were the only other pieces of furniture in the room. Cracks lined the neglected brown leather chair like the wrinkles that covered Grandpa Cragbridge. Wrinkles had been cured back in 2047, but Grandpa wanted to age naturally.
He looked up from the journal he was scribbling in and raised both of his boney hands. “Two of the most promising students in the world! Good to see you.” Grandpa set down his journal, picked up his cane, and hoisted himself up. As usual, he wore a simple collared shirt and the blazer he’d received when Cragbridge Hall had opened years ago. The school crest featuring a watchman’s tower was embroidered next to the lapel. His bald head reflected some of the light, and a white beard covered his face, except for his chin. Abby always thought he looked a little like an old explorer. “You didn’t wear your jackets?”
Abby and Derick had both received similar blazers when they had been admitted to the school. “We’re only required to wear them on special occasions,” Abby said. “Not orientation.”
Grandpa looked down. “Well, I guess much of my life must be a special occasion, then.” His bushy white mustache couldn’t hide his smile. “Are you ready for this?”
“I hope so,” Derick said, standing a little taller than Abby. “I’ve never been excited about school before. I always liked it, but this is a whole new level.”
Grandpa grinned and then turned to Abby for her answer.
“I …” Abby grabbed her sandy blonde hair and nervously twisted it into a temporary ponytail. “I’m … hoping for the best.” Not only was she going to attend a new school, but it was the premiere junior high in the world. Yeah—in the entire world. She had the reputation of her genius grandfather to live up to, and she would be living away from home. And of course, there was the fact that she didn’t even deserve to … She didn’t want to think about it.
Grandpa lowered himself back into his chair and rubbed his bald head with one hand. “I’ve arranged it with security so that you can visit me whenever you want. You have permission to leave the grounds as long as you’re back before dark.”
“Really?” Abby said, feeling like a weight had been lifted from her shoulders. “Thanks, Grandpa. I … might need it.”
“Of course. I think the academy owes me,” he said, and winked. Grandpa’s inventions had not only made the school possible, but they’d given it notoriety and acclaim. There was a reason it was called Cragbridge Hall.
“I’m sure your inventions are seriously amazing,” Derick said.
“Yeah, I can’t wait to see them in person,” Abby added. When she was younger, she used to imagine contraptions with screens and gears and lasers. Of course, as she grew older, she began researching them. She’d seen photos online, but that was nothing like experiencing them for herself.
“I’m sorry I couldn’t show them to you before. One day you’ll know why.” Grandpa looked up at Derick and Abby’s parents. “Can you believe it?”
Dad laughed. “I wish the academy had been open when I was a kid.”
Mom smiled and wiped a tear from her cheek. Maybe it was as difficult for her to send her kids to live away from home as it was for Abby to go.
“We are proud of you both,” Dad said. He gave Abby a quick peck on the forehead, then grabbed Derick by the shirt, pulled him in, and kissed the top of his head. Derick let out a cry as shrill as if his hand had been dipped in a bucket of maggots.
The twins’ father bolted down the old hall with Derick chasing close behind. Abby knew how this would go. They would chase each other around, one would try to get the other in a wrestling hold, and then Dad would probably cheat by tickling, which, of course, would provoke Derick even more. The whole thing would end with violent laughter.
“I’d better referee,” Mom said, and walked down the hall.
“Boys.” Abby shook her head.
Grandpa laughed, wheezing between chuckles.
There was a moment of silence, and then a playful scream from Abby’s father echoed down the hallway. He and Derick were running into the basement.
Abby took a step closer to her grandpa. “Thanks for getting me into the school.”
Grandpa looked sternly back at her, “I didn’t ‘get you in.’ The admissions review did. Just because you’re my granddaughter doesn’t mean you get special treatment.”
Abby smiled. “Grandpa, you’re a genius, but you’re a terrible liar. I got a rejection letter. Then a week later, I got my acceptance. I don’t think schools like Cragbridge Hall change their minds like that unless someone is pretty persuasive.”
Grandpa paled for a moment but then waved off his granddaughter’s accusation. “It doesn’t matter how you got in.” He stood and slowly made his way to one of a series of old pine bookshelves. Books were packed tightly along most of them, with an occasional knickknack wedged between volumes. He probably had more real books than most libraries. “Come here. I want to show you something.” Grandpa pointed to a small frame between To Kill a Mockingbird and The Three Musketeers. It could easily fit in the palm of his hand. Inside the frame were dark splotches interconnected on a lighter background, looking kind of like a maze. “That,” Grandpa said, pointing at the strange mass with his boney finger, “is a slice of Albert Einstein’s brain.”To Kill a MockingbirdThe Three Musketeers.
Abby stared back incredulously. “You’re kidding me, right?”
“Haven’t I ever told you that story?” Grandpa asked. He shuffled back to his old chair and began, not waiting for a response. “In a small town classroom, a teacher asked what the students knew had happened recently in current events. One child mentioned that Albert Einstein had died. Another raised his hand and said, ‘My father has his brain.’”
“What?” Abby said in disbelief.
“The boy wasn’t lying. His father was Thomas Harvey at Princeton Hospital. He performed the autopsy on Einstein, and he took the liberty of keeping the famous scientist’s brain.”
Abby raised her eyebrow. “Are you just trying to distract me? I know you got me into school.”
“Excuse me,” Grandpa said. “I was telling you about one of the great relics of the world.”
Abby sighed. “Alright, Grandpa, let’s talk about the brain. How did you get it?”
“Good question,” Grandpa said, apparently satisfied. “Once, Einstein and I had a … disagreement. It was about relativity. Anyway, he got upset with me and said he wanted to give me a piece of his mind.” He paused. Abby sighed—she should have seen it coming. He began to laugh, his giggles coming out as more of a light wheeze. “A piece of his mind,” he repeated between chuckles.
He was a genius in many areas, but comedy was not one of them.
“Alright. Alright.” He waved his arm, but still snickered for nearly another minute before continuing. “I have a few friends in the scientific world, and someone thought I deserved to have it.” Grandpa got up and walked a few steps toward the shelf, his cane knocking against the wood floor before each step. “Pieces of it ended up all over the place, given as gifts to other scientists.” He picked up what looked like an old photograph from another shelf. “This is a picture of about one fifth of his brain. But look here. This is what I wanted to show you. Do you see that groove?” Grandfather pointed to a certain part of the brain. “That is the inferior parietal lobe—the part of the brain most used in mathematics and spatial thinking. Einstein’s is shorter than most people’s but fifteen percent wider.”This
“Is that why he was a genius?” Abby asked.
“Maybe, or perhaps his brain became stronger because he worked so hard and learned so much, and because he practiced thinking so well.”
“This is great,” Abby said. “But I’m no Einstein. I couldn’t even get in without—”
Grandpa slammed the bottom of his cane onto the floor. “Abigail Cragbridge, you are just as good as, if not better than, every other student in that academy. When they said ‘no,’ I had to prevent them from making a terrible mistake. You’ll be one of the best things that ever happened to that place.”
“You don’t have to—”
“I’m completely serious,” Grandpa interrupted. He grabbed Abby’s face by the chin. “You have heart, Abby. The kind of heart some teachers and academics can only dream about. And I’m not saying that because you’re my granddaughter. You meet your challenges head on. I remember when you struggled with algebra. You spent hours every night studying and doing homework. The time you wanted to take guitar lessons, you saved up for months to pay for them. And when that Greenwich girl spread that dastardly gossip, you stuck it out with dignity. Eventually, you two even got along.”
“Yeah, things ended up okay—”
“You have heart.“ Grandpa’s eyes didn’t flinch. “I know it better than anything I’ve discovered, better than anything they’ve ever called genius. I’d stake all my reputation on your success.”“You have heart.”
Abby swallowed hard and blinked several times to keep tears from forming. She turned back to the jar.
“Einstein said that he had no special talent,” Grandpa continued, “but that he was passionately curious. Very few people are born extraordinary. You have to earn it. And you, Abby, have the heart to earn it.”
Dad and Mom walked in, with Derick a few steps behind. They were all breathing deeply—the aftereffects of a good laugh.
Abby quickly wiped her eyes.
“Give Grandpa another good hug, and let’s get out of here,” Dad said. “You don’t want to be late for orientation.”
“Wait just a minute,” Grandpa said, his brow wrinkled. “Derick, come over here by Abby. I have something for the two of you.”
Derick obediently stood beside his sister as Grandpa moved over to the fireplace. He picked up a brass-handled shovel and a poker from a matching set. He shoveled away the pile of ashes to one side of the fireplace, then pushed the tip of the poker into the corner of one brick. With a whir and a click, the brick rose out of the floor, and a small metal box appeared beneath it. Grandpa stooped and picked it up.
What kind of a gift did Grandpa keep buried underneath a brick in his fireplace?
“Are you sure?” Dad asked Grandpa, looking at the box.
“Yes, I am,” Grandpa said confidently. “Now, could you grab me a towel?” Dad jogged into the other room.
Grandpa turned to the twins. “I’m very proud of both of you. I’ve decided that you’re mature enough for a few very special gifts.” He wiped the beginnings of sweat from his brow with the back of his hand.
Dad returned with a towel, and Grandpa used it to clean any last traces of ash and soot from the box and from his hands. He set the towel aside, then opened a flap, revealing a lock screen. After a couple of keystrokes, the entire casing unlocked. The box was made of thick metal, and Abby couldn’t see inside it.
Grandpa reached in and pulled out two thin metal bands. “These are history attachments for your rings. Just slide them inside your existing rings.” He handed them to the twins. “They allow you to tap into my database, which means that you have access to some history not yet charted and open to the public. You’ll learn more about what that means after school starts. The attachments will allow you to access my personal files and memories through your rings. I have not kept an adequate journal, but in some ways, this is much better.”
He returned to the box and removed two metal lockets, both attached to thin chains. “And I want to give you these.” He handed one to Abby and the other to Derick. Abby’s locket was heavier than she expected it to be. It had ornate designs around the front, but the locket itself was a simple flat circle.
“I want you to put those somewhere very, very safe—preferably, you’ll wear them. And you’ll need to check them every day.”
“What do you mean?” Derick asked.
“Look at your locket every day,” Grandpa said. “If nothing has changed, then continue with your studies as before. But if something does change, you may be desperately needed. The locket will tell you what to do.” He wrung his hands. “I get especially nervous at the beginning of every school year. It would probably be the best time to …” He let his sentence trail off as he became lost in thought.
“To what?” Abby asked.
“Please keep your lockets a secret—I cannot stress that enough. No one should know about them, especially not the teachers,” Grandpa said. “Do you have your book collections with you?”
“Yes,” Abby said. “You insisted.”
“Even though no one else in the world uses actual books anymore,” Derick added.
“They should,” Grandpa said. “Nothing beats paper.”
“Time to go,” Dad interrupted.
“Wait,” Derick said. “What’s inside the lockets?”
Grandpa gazed into Derick’s eyes, then into Abby’s. She wasn’t sure what she saw in his eyes—concern? Love? Fear? Grandpa let out a sigh. “I hope you never have to find out.”
by Courtney - reviewed on March 06, 2013
In his inaugural book, Cragbridge Hall: The Inventor's Secret, Chad Morris tells the story of Derek and Abby Cragbridge; twin grandchildren of Oscar Cragbridge (who can best be described as Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Edison, Walt Disney and Steve Jobs all rolled into one). In a world where paper books (and even tablets) are rendered obsolete, the students at Cragbridge Hall watch history exactly as it happened; not with actors on a movie screen, but with a holographic echo of the actual historical characters. By the year 2074 Oscar has developed countless inventions that have changed the way the world works... and he has been kidnapped. With their grandfather and parents missing, Derek and Abby follow the clues left by Oscar--clues that can only be found by those who remember the lessons of history. There are so many reasons why I loved this book. In fact, I loved it so much that I had my husband read it to the family immediately after I finished it. Chad Morris breathes life back into history by telling the stories. With Derek and Abby we get to relive Blackbeard's final battle, the sinking of the Titanic, the escape of Frederick Douglass, and Shackleton's trek across Antarctica. We relive well known and beloved historical figures and are introduced to those who have been forgotten. In The Inventor's Secret, Chad's brilliance in bringing history alive is matched only by his ability to show us that the vast benefits of technology invariably include a few pitfalls. That the same tool that can be used to free millions of people can also be used to enslave others, and that sometimes freedom is more important than convenience or a life of ease. You will learn all of these lessons while reading an exciting and captivating tale about an insecure and "ordinary" little girl living in the shadow of her brilliant twin brother.
Fun Historical Fiction
by Heather - reviewed on March 26, 2013
I heard of this book the week I recived it from my elementary aged children who had a visit form the author, Chad Morris at their school. They were so entertained and excited about his presentation that they tried to wrangle the book away from me and I've been in a hurry to finish it ever since so they can have their turn! It's always a good sign when they get book envy. Chad spends a lot of time weaving obscure and not so obscure elements of history into his storyline which takes place at a prestigious school for brilliant students of the future. The two main heroes are brother and sister team Abby and Derick who are on a mission to find out what happened to their grandfather, the schools founder as well as their parents....before it is too late. There is plenty of adventure packed into the quest to find clues. The team and their peers are allowed to use "the Bridge" which takes allows them to see history come to life and feel it as it is happening. Readers get sucked right along with them into scenes as horrifying as a bear attack and as thrilling as a slave escape. I really loved the characters and my ability to relate to them. It is truly middle grade perfect. Everyone knows the annoying best girl friend who is vying for the attention of your brother, the mean girl who is trying to turn her clique of friends against you, and the teachers who you can't tell are on your side or not. The main voice, Abby is good just the way she is and is not perfect or fatally flawed. My children are going to eat this one up and I am pleased to pass it on to them as it is clean and not overly violent. Well done Chad Morris for keeping me and my family fascinated with the past and the future
New Series = Inventive Book
by Matt - reviewed on March 01, 2013
I found this book and found it quite unique. First of all this book did not try and create instant sympathy for the young main characters, Abby and Derick, through formulaic abuse, abandonment, or the parent’s tragic death. Instead you really cheer for these characters because of their personalities and snappy dialogue. But the best dialogue belongs to Carol, a friend soon scooped up in Abby’s and Derick’s adventure. I found myself laughing out loud various times because of something Carol did or said. In this book the writing is tight and narrative crisp. The book centers on Cragbridge Hall—a futuristic school which allows the students to experience events from the past and control/become animal avatars. When the bad guy (I won’t spoil it by giving a name) secretly uses the technology of the school for evil purposes, Abby, Derick, and their friends really show ingenuity. However, again, like the sympathy, the ingenuity is not fashioned in a the same old, same old way. Instead the author uses real life historical events to help the characters solve the problems in the book. This idea of referring to historical events is the genius and uniqueness of this book. Every time one of the characters went into the past, I always wished that I could be there too! During the book the characters, and us as readers, are reminded about fairly familiar people or events like Blackbeard the pirate, Annie Oakley, and the Titanic. Also, we are informed about lesser known events and people like Ernest Shackleton and his expedition to the Antarctica. However, these events are not presented in a dry, stale, “history-is-boring” sort of way, but instead the characters, thanks to the futuristic tools of the school, live through the most exciting moments of history. In other words, this books bridges a gap between a historical fiction book and a fantasy book. I would call it a “Historia” book (historical fiction + a fantasy story). So if you are a parent (I am in my 30s) or a kid looking for a book that can last past the final page until the second book in this series comes out, buy this book. You will find yourself looking into the real-life amazing stories of the past described in this work as you wait for the next installment. After I finished this book I sought out a reputable non-fiction book about Shackleton’s experience and found it fascinating.
by Shauna - reviewed on March 08, 2013
I REALLY REALLY LOVED this book! Fun, creative storyline told so well you will stay up way past your bedtime reading it! I LOVED all the inventions: History class: you "watch" what really happened. English: a student sits in a 'chair' and while reading the other students 'see' the story. Gym: you get to literally run up a virtual mountain. Zoology: you become an avatar of the animal you are studying. And the challenges Abby and Derrick have to go through to save their parents and grandfather...just wait until you read all about that...SO GOOD! I REALLY HOPE they make a movie out of this book :)
Love the imagination and creativity mixed with history!
by Monica - reviewed on March 15, 2013
I loved this book! I loved the creativity and imagination that weaved together a fun and engaging storyline with historical events. The character development was very good, and I really liked the characters, especially Derick, Abby and Carol. I loved that Abby was a strong female character. She didn't think of herself as brave or intelligent, but she ended up working hard and didn't give up, and she accomplished some great things. I am a history lover, and I loved how this book took historical events and made them real and exciting (Shhhh......don't tell the kids that they'll enjoy learning about history.). My 4th and 5th grade boys are going to love this book. It is clean and I recommend it for ages 3rd grade and up. You may read my full review on my book blog: www.the-readathon.blogspot.com/search/label/The%20Inventor%27s%20Secret.
Cragbridge Hall: The Inventor's Secret
by Mindy - reviewed on March 19, 2013
5 out of 5 stars. Oh my goodness, where do I start? I loved everything about this book. Cragbridge Hall: The Inventor's Secret is one of the biggest reasons I love reading and reviewing middle grade. It is one of my favorite reads of the year so far. Everything about this book is so exciting and fun. It is a non-stop thrill ride. You will not be able to stop reading until you are finished. My favorite thing about The Inventor's Secret was The Bridge. To be able to see events from history unfold before your eyes, but be amazing. There is another great message in this book about facing your fears, and being brave. Abby is faced with many obstacles when she arrives at school. She already feels that she shouldn't be there. She feels out of place for not being magnificent at something, like her super genius brother Derick. Her grandpa gives her some advice before school starts. "Grandpa slammed the bottom of his cane onto the floor. "Abigail Cragbridge, you are just as good as, if not better tan, every other student in that academy. When they said "no", I had to prevent them from making a terrible mistake. you'll be one of the best things that every happened to that place." "You don't have to--" "I'm completely serious," Grandpa interrupted. He grabbed Abby's face by the chin. "You have heart, Abby." page 7 Abby learns right away that she is not "welcome" because others think she got in to Cragbridge because her grandfather made it so. She finds a friend, Carol, who accepts her for who she is. By the way, Carol ends up being one of my favorite characters. This book has humor, heart, and is tons of fun. I recommend it anyone who loves a great adventure.
Engaging story--love the history angle!
by K - reviewed on March 18, 2013
Rookie author, Chad Morris, has written a new book, The Inventor's Secret, which will surely appeal to the Tweens in your life. My twelve-year-old son, an avid fantasy reader, was hooked from the beginning. We had planned on reading it together (do we ever really out-grow a great read aloud?), but the day after it arrived in the mail, he was already half way finished! It didn't take me long to follow suit. I love the family values woven throughout the story, and I LOVE the way history is presented at Cragbridge Hall! I won't give anything away, but we were so taken with one of the historical events, we had to "explore" it a little more on our own.