School Library Journal
Gr 6–9—Luke and Tommy are sure that the book they have been assigned for a school project is the most boring one in the world. But which book can really claim that status? Challenged to find out, they do some research and stumble upon Leonardo's River, written 200 years before World War II and rumored to be so deadly dull that no one could ever finish it. Improbably, the boys discover the only existing copy in their public library-but they aren't the only ones interested in the volume. When they take it and are violently pursued by a megalomaniacal millionaire, they realize that there must be more to the book than meets the eye. Indeed, a deadly secret hides within its yawn-worthy passages and sleep-inducing chapters. Suspense builds as the friends uncover a kidnapping, a network of neo-Nazis, and plans for a nuclear bomb. The story transitions from mystery-adventure to science fiction with the revelation that the most boring book in the world contains coded instructions for the operation of a time machine that the neo-Nazis plan to use to change the course of World War II. Who better to travel back to 1940s Germany and foil a Nazi plot than two gutsy teenage guys? The wacky unbelievability of this story in no way detracts from its enjoyment. It reads like an action movie, with plenty of chases, explosions, and by-a-hair escapes. A good choice for reluctant readers, particularly boys.—Emma Burkhart, Springside School, Philadelphia, PA
Falkner delivers a thriller that melds humor, danger, and history. Luke, a 15-year-old New Zealand native transplanted to Iowa because of his father's teaching job, finds himself researching "the most boring book in the world" for an assignment. By an amazing coincidence, the only copy of that book, Leonardo's River, turns up the next day when Luke and his best friend Tommy help save the university library from flooding. The boys decide to sneak in and grab the book—an eccentric millionaire is willing to pay two million dollars for it—and are chased by mysterious men when they abscond with it. Their research leads to the discovery of lost writings of Da Vinci, complete with the true meaning of the Vitruvian man. They also end up in further danger as they uncover a Nazi conspiracy that could change the fate of the world. Falkner (Brain Jack) mixes some goofy concepts into this otherwise straightforward story, but he sells them well and doesn't let them feel forced. The result is an entertaining mystery with plenty of enjoyable twists and turns. Ages 12–up. (Sept.)
VOYA - Bethany Martin
While working to save the town from a flood, and themselves from a summer spent reading The Last of the Mohicans, high schoolers Luke and Tommy stumble across the most boring book in the world. Besides being extremely boring, the single existing copy of Leonardo's River, based on drawings by Leonardo da Vinci, also happens to be worth two million dollars. However, Luke and Tommy are not the only ones who want to cash in on the book. They soon find themselves hunted by a rare book collector who wants to use the information about time travel contained in the book to make sure Nazi Germany wins World War II. It is up to Luke and Tommy to stop him and save the world. Falkner has created a fast-paced story filled with twists and turns. The introduction of time travel halfway through the book, however, is a bit jarring and might turn off readers who like their adventure stories without science fiction elements. Those who do not mind some unrealistic plot points in their stories, along with conspiracy theorists and alternate history fans, will find much to enjoy. Recommend this book to readers who enjoyed Blue Balliett's Chasing Vermeer (Scholastic, 2004/VOYA December 2004) or Elise Broach's Masterpiece (Henry Holt, 2008) but are looking for a little more action. Reviewer: Bethany Martin
Children's Literature - Paula Rohrlick
When flood waters threaten an Iowa City library, fifteen-year-old friends Luke and Tommy volunteer to help move the books to safety. In the process, they stumble upon a unique and valuable volume: Leonardo's River, known as the most boring book in the world, but also, it seems, the repository of some amazing secrets. The boys are not the only ones who want the book, however; members of a neo-Nazi group known as the Werewolves are after it as well, and they want to use its secrets to change the course of history. Luke, who is from New Zealand, has a perfect memory; Tommy has a knack for talking his way into, and then out of, trouble. These gifts come in handy when the boys must go back in time to World War II to foil the bad guys' plans and prevent a world-changing catastrophe. If you can suspend belief, this is an enjoyable, action-packed thriller featuring wise-cracking and intrepid teen heroes. Fans of Falkner's other YA novels, Tomorrow Code and Brain Jack, will be eager to read this adventure. Reviewer: Paula Rohrlick
New Zealand author Falkner delivers another solid thriller (Brainjack, 2010, etc.).
Iowa teens Luke and Tommy are in big trouble at school, not simply because they find their assigned reading boring and say so.Well, maybe the prank they played on the statue of the town's founding father was part of the problem as well.But they didn't mean to make trouble; they even volunteered to help save the library's books when the river overflowed its banks.It was just a lucky coincidence that they found a one-of-a-kind book in the process—a book that someone was offering a big reward to recover.They slip back the library to pick it up and get caught up in not just the flood, but a conspiracy straight out of World War II. It seems that this book contains plans to a time-travel mechanism that will enable some last, lingering Nazis to restore the Third Reich unless Tommy and Luke go back to 1944 to thwart them.Now they're really in trouble, running from thugs, deciphering the most boring book in the world and trying to save Europe from being overtaken by Adolf Hitler all over again. This volume is hard to put down, with engaging and well-drawn characters, plenty of action and nice side helpings of history.
An epilogue hints that this may not be the end of Tommy and Luke's adventures; readers will certainly be hoping for more. (Science fiction. 12 & up)
Read an Excerpt
This is not the most boring book in the world.
This is a book about the most boring book in the world, which is a different book altogether.
This book is really interesting and exciting, and parts of it are quite funny.
The most boring book in the world, on the other hand, is really, really boring. It’s a real clunker. It’s so boring that if I told you what it was about, you’d be asleep before I got past the introduction. And so would I.
You might think that your history textbook is the most boring book in the world. But you are wrong. Or you might think that your auntie’s book about dried flowers is the most boring book in the world, but that’s like an action-packed adventure story compared to the real most boring book in the world.
The most boring book in the world is so boring that only one copy of it was ever printed. The story goes that the guy who was printing the book glanced down and started reading the pages as they were whizzing through the hand-turned press, and it was so boring that he fell asleep and knocked over a lantern onto a stack of paper, which caught fire and destroyed the printery. Only one copy survived. Which is probably a good thing.
The printer, whose name was Albert, was fired, but he found a cozy little job licking postage stamps at a post office in Moose Jaw, Canada, which sounds like the most boring job in the world, and it probably was, but he said it was still better than printing the most boring book in the world.
But this book is not about Albert. It’s about the most boring book in the world. And, most of all, it is about me and Tommy, the ones who found the most boring book in the world, and the terrible things that took place after we found it.
“We would have got away with it if it wasn’t for that drunken squirrel,” said Luke. He managed a grin at Tommy, who was sitting next to him on the hard, slatted bench outside the vice principal’s office.
As always, in the cold, hard light of the next day, their prank seemed childish and stupid. But this time, Luke had discovered the universal law of vice principals: Those in America had no better sense of humor than those back in New Zealand.
“Don’t sweat it, dude,” Tommy said. “I can handle Kerr.”
Tommy’s dad was a lawyer, and Tommy always thought he could talk his way out of anything. Sometimes he was right.
Tommy had a coin in his hand and was flipping it up in the air, catching it first on the topside of his fingers, then flipping his hand over and catching it on the underside. “Seriously,” he said. “I’ve been in more courtrooms than you’ve had hot dinners. I’m going to tie this sucker up in so many legal knots that he’ll look like a . . . a . . . pretzel.”
“Someone doing yoga,” Luke said simultaneously.
“Yep, a pretzel doing yoga,” Tommy said.
“I hope so.”
“Just back me up on whatever I say.”
“No worries about that, bro,” Luke said.
Tommy flipped the coin a couple more times, then caught it in his palm and made a fist. “How many times?” he asked.
“How many times what?” Luke asked.
“How many times did I toss the coin? Get it right, you can keep the coin.”
“Forty-seven,” Luke said.
“How many of them were heads?” Tommy asked.
“Twenty-nine,” Luke said.
“How many tails?”
“All the rest.” Luke smiled.
Tommy flipped the coin to him. “That’s freaky,” he said. “How do you do that?”
It was true. He really didn’t know. When he was younger, Luke had thought that everybody could remember things like he could and was surprised to find out that most people’s memories were sieves. His memory was a blessing and a curse. In class he would scan the textbook at the start of the lesson and no longer need to concentrate. That led to hours of staring out of classroom windows or doodling in the margins of his workbooks. The boredom also led to some interesting pranks that were hilarious to him and his classmates but that, for some inexplicable reason, his teachers did not find funny.
The door to the office opened, and Ms. Sheck, their homeroom teacher, stood in the gap.
In her early twenties, she observed the strict dress code for teachers at the high school, with a simple skirt, plain blouse, and sensible flat shoes. However, she wore a bit too much eyeliner; there was a suspicious hole in the side of her nose; and her sprayed, clipped blond hair seemed to be struggling to bust out. If students were angry with Ms. Sheck, they called her Ms. Shrek, but she really didn’t look anything like Shrek. Luke thought she looked more like Princess Fiona, the beautiful princess (in her non-ogre moments). All of the guys at the school thought she was really hot.
“Come in, boys,” she said solemnly, but Luke thought he saw her eyes sparkle, just slightly.
Luke took a deep breath and stood up.
Mr. Kerr, on the other hand, was a jelly doughnut. Or at least what Luke imagined a jelly doughnut would look like if it ever became vice principal of a high school. Rolls of fat bulged in places where most people didn’t even have places. He always wore a three-piece suit in some kind of vain attempt to conceal the bulges, but it just made them more obvious. A thick shock of red hair added the jelly to the top of the doughnut.
Kerr’s office was dominated by a huge, ugly wooden desk in the center of the room. The corners of the desk were carved knobs that looked like clenched fists, and the panel in the front was vaguely skull-like in design. The desk was in the middle of a bright circle of light created by four small ceiling-mounted spotlights. Two of the lights shone in Luke’s eyes, as if he were a spy under interrogation. Ve haf vays of making you talk! he thought.
Kerr was examining a book, the book, Luke saw and cringed a little. It had been their English assignment, but after seven attempts, he had given up trying to read it. The remains of the duct tape were still attached to the bottom and spine of the book, covering part of the title so that it said The Last of the Mo. Kerr leaned forward and slammed the book down right in front of them, one corner jutting out over the edge of the desk, pointing right at Luke. He and Tommy both stared at it.
Kerr glowered at them from under thick orange eyebrows. “Sit,” he said.
Luke reached out and straightened the book so that it lined up with the edge of the desk. Kerr looked him in the eye, and Luke quickly glanced away.
“Was it worth it?” Kerr asked.
“Sir?” Tommy asked with an expression of utter innocence.
“Was it worth it?” Kerr repeated.
Luke began, “I’m not sure what—”
“Tell me why I shouldn’t call your parents right now. Tell me why I shouldn’t call the police.”
Luke drew in his breath sharply and caught Ms. Sheck’s eyes.
“I don’t think there’s any need for the police,” she said.
Mr. Kerr shot a glance at Ms. Sheck as if she had no right to interfere, but the edges of her mouth curled up into a smile, and even he couldn’t bring himself to stay angry with her.
His eyes fastened themselves firmly back on Luke. “I don’t know what they let you get away with in New Zealand,” Kerr continued, “but in America we have certain standards of behavior that are expected of our students.”
Luke considered telling him that he had once been suspended from a school in New Zealand for a “certain standard of behavior” but decided that it wasn’t quite the appropriate moment.
Kerr continued. “You have caused this school a lot of embarrassment. You could have been killed.”
It wasn’t clear which of those two he considered worse.
From the Hardcover edition.