The Secret of the Magic eyePad

The Secret of the Magic eyePad
Publisher Name
Putney Designs LLC
Age Range
Release Date
May 31, 2022
Putney Hicks just wants things to go right for once. A socially awkward girl dropped among rich kids in an experimental STEM institution, the anxious twelve-year-old can’t seem to see her own potential. But life sprinkles in a surprise when she receives a mysterious tablet housing an advanced, talkative intelligence.

Wondering if the friendly pixie in the device is alien or supernatural, Putney is determined to keep it safe while exploring its possibilities. But when competitive art and science projects lead to an ill-advised bet with a wealthy mean girl, the would-be engineer may be in way over her head.

Will Putney’s mysterious new mentor help her make it through her first week in class?

The Secret of the Magic eyePad is the award-winning first book in the Putney Hicks Inventor Adventures middle grade series. If you like girls in STEM, preteen drama, and clever innovations, then you’ll love Marsha Tufft’s lighthearted tale.

Editor review

1 review
Creativity through STEM
Overall rating
Writing Style
Illustrations/Photos (if applicable)
What worked:
The focus on STEM allows the book to be instructive and educational too. Actually, Putney’s new school is piloting STEAM where art is incorporated with the other areas of study. Her family has just moved from Alaska to Hilton Head, South Carolina, so the setting provides many opportunities to enjoy nature. The story opens with Putney adding to her live butterfly collection as she studies their metamorphosis from caterpillars to chrysalis, to butterflies. Her school is introducing underwater hockey which the book says is growing in popularity around the world. Putney’s first school assignment is to design a new sit-upon that will be used while they’re making sketches around the beach. The book uses the activity to explain a process for rapid prototypes by describing the steps and including drawings.
The plot often focuses on the conflict between Putney and a rich, snobby girl named Sue Wexford. Sue donates clothes to Goodwill and she notices Putney is wearing some of her old capris. Sue immediately targets Putney as being below her social status and makes it her mission to prove her superiority. However, Putney has aspirations to become an artist or architect so she possesses a great deal of creativity and technical knowledge. Being in the STEAM environment inspires her to come up with innovative ideas in the sit-upon contest that prove to challenge Sue’s concepts. Sue proves to be a deceitful, conniving character and her underhanded strategies pit her as the story’s villain.
The role of the eyePad pixie named Sam isn’t as prominent as expected but that’s okay in a story about STEM education. Sam is comparable to a 3-D holographic image of Siri or Alexa, that no one else can see, that can perform all of the functions of a computerized virtual assistant. Sam offers advice and research but Putney is the one with ideas and plans. Sam sometimes acts as a moral compass and questions Putney about her decisions. An intriguing twist is that Sam can create materials from nothing but it uses up magical power being used for her to exist. Using this ability may become a countdown to Sam’s demise somewhere in the series. Additional trouble arises when Sue spots Putney’s eyePad.
What didn’t work as well:
The book doesn’t develop much of a conflict other than Putney’s problems with Sue Wexford. Putney feels a need to beat the girl in the sit-upon competition while Sue is determined to get the better of Putney. The book’s overall feel is like a collection of subplots but it doesn’t generate much drama and tension. The conflict involving Sue and the eyePad doesn’t grow into a suspenseful issue so it’s a missed opportunity.
The final verdict:
The focus on STEM, or STEAM, is a fresh approach to a middle-grade novel and the author takes the time to explain innovations and creativity. The lack of suspense may not excite some readers and they may tire of the informative aspect in some parts of the book. Overall, this book is a fun read about creativity and friends and I recommend you give it a shot.
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