published by Puffin Canada
1st published 1999 Reissued 2018
A fascinating YA mystery the basis of which comes from the actual invention and historic bites of interest from WWI, I found the book very well-defined in its time-frame and place, Halifax, Nova Scotia, with WWI German submarines attacking the east coast of North America, lack of money, lack of entertainment for teens; no wonder people were desperate for both money and entertainment. Thus we find our young hero, Billy McCracken, not so much a hero at this point, he is getting in with the "wrong" crowds and his mother is in a quandry. This boy has a lot of anger buried and possibly doesn't even realize it, but more than that he is gambling and smoking, neither a particularly a healthy life.
Through some interesting maneuvers he finds himself sent off to work for Alexander Graham Bell. He has no idea of how his life might change. This is where the book became very interesting to me. Aside from Bell being an inventor and teacher of so many things, he becomes a real friend to Billy, who he insists on calling William McCracken. Alexander Graham Bell invented the first hydrofoil boat in 1911, intended to resist enemy submarines reaching/attacking the east coast. This I found fascinating. I believe young teens will find this interesting and older teens will be drawn to the technical side, but also what happens when the war and early technology clash. Billy becomes very interested in this machine that is so amazing. When danger lurks, he and others working with Bell are ready and willing to save the ship from attack. I thought the book had a lot going for it and in it. The lives if people in the Maritimes, the inventions and the well-written inventor, the technology, Bell's "lessons" to help young people. Altogether it makes for good reading.