Vincent Shadow: Toy Inventor

Vincent Shadow: Toy Inventor

4.5 2
by Tim Kehoe, Mike Wohnoutka, Guy Francis

Vincent Shadow isn't particularly good at sports and is constantly being picked on by his classmates at Central Middle School. But it is Vincent's unusually creative mind that truly separates him from other kids his age.
Vincent's top secret attic lab is crammed with toy prototypes —from Liquid Superballs to Bullz-I Basketballs and Sonic Snorkelz—and

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Vincent Shadow isn't particularly good at sports and is constantly being picked on by his classmates at Central Middle School. But it is Vincent's unusually creative mind that truly separates him from other kids his age.
Vincent's top secret attic lab is crammed with toy prototypes —from Liquid Superballs to Bullz-I Basketballs and Sonic Snorkelz—and he has a sketch book filled with drawings of toys he still wants to build. So when a chance encounter with an eccentric toy inventor offers him the opportunity to go from unknown weird kid to toy inventor extraordinaire, Vincent realizes that playtime is over: it's time to get serious about toys.

* Vincent Shadow: Toy Inventor was previously titled The Unusual Mind of Vincent Shadow.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Kehoe's debut is a quick-reading, whimsical tale of a boy inventor, but reliance on the trope of the evil stepfamily undercuts much of the fun. Vincent used to have frequent blinding flashes of inspiration and invented all sorts of wonderful toys in the secret laboratory his late mother built with him. But when his mostly absentee father moves the family to Minnesota, he loses access to most of his inventions (and stops having visions). Forced to sleep in a cold basement laundry room by his stepmother, Vincent's only ray of hope is his eccentric new art teacher, who gets Vincent the opportunity to enter a contest sponsored by toy designer Howard G. Whiz. Unfortunately, Kehoe's characters never amount to much more than cartoons. Vincent's stereotypically nasty stepmother favors her biological children—packing gourmet meals for their lunches, while Vincent gets the dregs—and his oblivious father is absentminded to the point of neglect. Though Vincent gets his expected moment of glory in the end, his family's last-minute turnaround feels pat and halfhearted. Ages 8–12. (Nov.)
Children's Literature - Cherie Ilg Haas
Vincent Shadow is a young inventor who gets intense visions of new, creative toys. His intuitions are so strong and creative that, before she passed away, his Mom helped him build a secret laboratory. He gets to it through a secret door in his bedroom closet. After his Dad remarries, Vincent continues to work on making his ideas reality without anyone knowing, until one of his schoolteachers announces a contest for toy inventions. The winner gets to spend a summer with the great inventor Howard G. Whiz, creating new toys. This is Vincent's chance to shine, but the competition is fierce and his likelihood of winning almost disappears when he accidentally ruins his entry, a windless kite, on the night just before the actual contest. The characters in this book are compelling, and the story is told in a layered way with strong descriptions and natural dialogue. A "Top Secret Invention Notebook" comes with the book, tucked into a secret compartment of the back cover. Reviewer: Cherie Ilg Haas
School Library Journal
Gr 4–6—Eleven-year-old Vincent Shadow has a gift so unusual and problematic that he's always had to hide it. Much like his idol, eccentric inventor Nikola Tesla, his ideas come to him in the form of blinding, fully formed, and intricately detailed visions. Unlike Tesla's, Vincent's visions are all of fantastic toys: windless kites, everlasting squirt guns, and 3-D ink, among them. Being a boy genius was easy when Vincent's supportive mom helped him build a secret home laboratory, but following her death and his father's remarriage, things change. The family is about to move from New York to Minnesota, and Vincent's inspiration level is fading fast. Just as both his genius and morale seem to be bottoming out, he learns of a promising toy-invention contest sponsored by legendary toymaker Howard G. Whiz. If Vincent wins it, he'll earn an apprenticeship back in New York—a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to utilize his gift. As the contest nears, renewed inspiration comes from newly discovered Tesla artifacts and the surprising support of his stepsister. The question is, can Vincent overcome the last-minute sabotage by a rival in time to realize his dream? This is a solid, whimsically illustrated writing debut from a real-life toy inventor. It begs for a quick follow-up.—Jeffrey Hastings, Highlander Way Middle School, Howell, MI
Kirkus Reviews
Eleven-year-old Vincent Shadow used to invent toys with his artist mother in a secret lab they built in his bedroom closet. After her death, he continued trying to bring the headache-inducing visions he has to life as prototypes. Now his museum-director father has remarried the stereotypically mean Vibs, and Vincent has to put up with three stepsisters. When his father moves the family from New York City to Vibs's hometown of Minneapolis, Vincent abandons inventing until an art teacher gets him to enter a toy contest, with predictable results. The first prize is a summer internship with reclusive toy maker Howard G. Whiz. A cliched, meandering story and undeveloped characters mar this tired riff on "Cinderella" and Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. Vincent's inventions are interesting, but the idea that he must steal the parts even when they are school assignments is silly and makes for a problematic protagonist. The 50 pages of Vincent's invention notebook tacked on at the end are the one high point, with gee-whiz cartoon illustrations by Wohnoutka (the spot art for the story is supplied by Francis). Easily skippable. (Fiction. 8-12)

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Product Details

Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
Publication date:
Vincent Shadow Series, #1
Sales rank:
Product dimensions:
5.40(w) x 7.40(h) x 0.70(d)
Age Range:
8 - 12 Years

Read an Excerpt

Vincent Shadow: Toy Inventor

By Kehoe, Tim

Little, Brown Books for Young Readers

Copyright © 2011 Kehoe, Tim
All right reserved.

ISBN: 9780316056663


This book is a work of fiction and intended solely for reading entertainment. It is not intended to be a guidebook for any of the experiments or activities described in this book. The experiments and activities described in this book can be extremely dangerous and the reader should not attempt to recreate them. Before doing any kind of science experiment, readers are advised to ask a responsible adult about the dangers that may be involved and, with the help of that adult, take the necessary precautions. The author and publisher disclaim any liability that is incurred from the application of the contents of this book.



Jeff Benz gave out most of the nicknames at Central Middle School. The nicknames were never kind and, unfortunately, they usually stuck. Take Jimmy “Eagle-Eyes” Pierson, for example. Jimmy had an unfortunate eye condition that made it difficult for him to accurately judge distances. Once, in second grade, Jimmy walked into the cafeteria wall so hard it knocked him to the floor. Jeff Benz immediately stood up and yelled, “Nice going, Eagle-Eyes.” And that was that. The nickname Eagle-Eyes was now pinned to Jimmy Pierson for the rest of his life. (It didn’t matter to anyone that Jimmy had corrective surgery last year and now enjoyed perfect vision. No, to the students at Central Middle, Jimmy Pierson would be “Eagle-Eyes” forever.)

Vincent Shadow didn’t have a nickname, but as he climbed out of his secret attic laboratory at 6:34 AM on Monday morning, he was afraid that today would be the day he’d receive one. Vincent was blue. His hands were blue. His face was blue. Even the whites of his eyes were blue. As he closed the hidden door in the back of his bedroom closet, all he could think about were the awful nicknames that Jeff Benz would assign to him.

“Pretty bird. Pretty bird,” Nikola said from inside his cage.

“Sshhh. You’ll wake everyone up,” Vincent said to the African Grey parrot his parents had given him for his ninth birthday. Vincent named the bird after his favorite inventor, Nikola Tesla. And the fact that even his beloved parrot was mocking him was a bad sign of what was to come.

Vincent quietly opened his bedroom door and looked out into the hall. His oldest stepsister, Gwen, usually hogged the bathroom in the morning. But no one was awake yet. So he tiptoed into the bathroom and locked the door.

“Wigman,” Vincent said to himself. “The Huli Wigman of New Guinea. That’s what they’re going to call me. ‘Wigboy.’”

Vincent’s class had learned about the Huli tribe last year. They got a kick out of hearing that the Huli Wigmen dyed their skin blue for tribal ceremonies. But looking in the mirror, Vincent’s worries turned from his new nickname to his own safety. Not only were his skin and eyes blue, but his tongue and teeth were a deep navy blue as well. Vincent had experienced many mishaps in the lab—spills, cuts, little electrical shocks, and once he even glued his fingertips together—but this, this looked much worse.

Vincent stood in the shower for thirty minutes, scrubbing as hard as he could, but nothing seemed to work. He tried all of his sister’s fancy soaps and shampoos, but the mess just got worse. Not only was he still as blue as a blue jay, but now most of the bathroom was blue, too.

“Hurry up, Vern,” Gwen said as she pounded on the bathroom door. “You’ve been in there for almost an hour!”

Vincent’s father, Norton Shadow, had remarried a few months ago, and Vincent went from being an only child, which he deeply missed, to living with three stepsisters: Gwen, Stella, and Anna. Gwen was sixteen and went to Central High School on the Upper West Side. Stella was Vincent’s age. In fact, their birthdays were exactly one week apart. But that was where the similarities stopped. Anna was six. An aggressive, annoying, insistent six-year-old girl.

Gwen had called Vincent “Vern.” She had never done this before—called him Vern, that is. She had also never called him Vincent. In fact, she had never called him the same name twice. While the names usually started with a V, she never seemed to come up with “Vincent,” or even “Vinny,” for that matter. Vincent was pretty sure she did this on purpose. It drove him crazy, but no one else in the family seemed to notice.

“I’LL BE OUT IN A MINUTE,” Vincent shouted to Gwen, who was now practically breaking down the bathroom door with her slipper.

Vincent tried to clean up as best he could and then wrapped a towel around his body, a second around his hair, and covered his face with a third towel as he walked out of the bathroom.

He decided to wear a blue shirt, blue pants, and blue socks to try to camouflage his blueness. Vincent hoped that people would think it was his blue clothes casting a blue reflection that made him seem so blue. But when he looked into his dresser mirror and saw the Wigman chief staring back at him, he realized that this was going to be the longest day of his life.


Excerpted from Vincent Shadow: Toy Inventor by Kehoe, Tim Copyright © 2011 by Kehoe, Tim. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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Meet the Author

Tim Kehoe is the inventor of numerous toy products, including the world's first colored bubbles, called Zubbles, and he was recently named one of America's 100 Best by Reader's Digest. In 2005, Zubbles was awarded Popular Science's Grand Prize for Innovation. This is Mr. Kehoe's debut children's book. He lives with his wife and five children in Minnesota. Visit him online at

Mike Wohnoutka received his B.F.A. in Illustration from the Savannah College of Art and Design. Since graduating he has illustrated a number of picture books for young readers. He lives with his wife and daughter in Minnesota. Visit him online at

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Vincent Shadow - Toy Inventor 4.5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 2 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Homeatlast More than 1 year ago
We bought this book for our 7 year old second grader. He did not pick the book out and rolled his eyes when I addded it to the books we were purchasing. Once he started it, we couldn't get it finished fast enough! He loved the ideas and inventions. He took the book to school and loaned it to three different friends before school ended. He is so excited for the next book due out in February!