Tuesday, August 14, 2018

Review: Edge of Yesterday Series by Robin Stevens Payes

Edge of Yesterday Series, Book One
by Robin Stevens Payes
Small Batch Books
Middle Grade Science Fiction/Time Travel
ages 9 to 12

When thirteen-year-old geek-girl Charley Morton decides to build what she believes is Leonardo da Vinci's design for a time machine for the middle school science fair, she has two thoughts in mind: to win first prize and to travel back in time to meet her idol, Leonardo. Her goal: to find out how the Renaissance artist, engineer, scientist, musician, anatomist, and inventor managed to do it all.


As a fan of time travel, science and everything history, I was looking forward to diving into this series. It's as fun as it sounds!

Charley would love nothing more than to be just like her idol, Leonardo Da  Vinci—a renaissance man...girl. And she's on her best way of doing just that. With the school science fair approaching, she's got herself set on perhaps bringing Da Vinci's version of a time machine to life. With her best friend Billy, a potential genius in his own right, at her side, she's sure their experiment will be great. Until strange things start to happen.

The author doesn't keep the intention behind this book a secret—to encourage girls to stay in the sciences, technical and engineering fields. And she does a great job. Charley is, in many ways, very normal for her age. She's at the verge of becoming a teenager and faces the social problems that girls have at this age. Her main concentration is, however, on her interest for everything Da Vinci. While heading through adventure, the areas of history, science, engineering, language and music all are touched upon. The author makes sure never to shy away from any information and keeps facts close while allowing fiction to flow along beside the tidbits of knowledge. It's a nice mixture, which shows that science and learning aren't necessarily boring but offer adventure too.

The writing fits the intended age group well and touches upon familiar concerns such as friendship, family and beginning relationships between boys and girls. The vocabulary is, generally, at the right level. Sometimes, Charley explains what is considered a 'difficult' term, which does pull out of the story and, considering this book hits lightly upon harder concepts such as quantum physics, isn't necessary. The scientific terminology and theories are presented without hesitation and at a level readers have a chance of understanding. These descriptions might be a little too detailed for some, while others will enjoy the dive into physics and such. There's also a dash of Italian, which allows the readers to get a taste for the language.

With all of this packed in, the story still is fast paced and interesting. Charley and her friends are easy to cheer for and the situations come across very naturally. The only thing which bothered me was the cliffhanger ending, which forces the reader to continue to the next book to see what happens next. Luckily, the story is exciting enough that readers will want to accompany Charley on the next leg of her journey anyway.

The Edge of Yesterday, Book Two
by Robin Stevens Payes
Middle Grade Science Fiction/ Time Travel 

October 2018!!!


Note: This book cannot be read as a stand alone but continues where book one left off.

Charley finds herself in Florence in the year 1492. Her idol, Leonardo Da Vinci, has been expecting her thanks to his mysterious apprentice. Not only is Charley still confused after a sudden time travel but is having a difficult time fitting in with past and different culture. Da Vinci claims he wants to learn from her, while she wants to learn from him. But all of that takes a backseat as the adventure flies forward. After all, time travel is not a simple thing, and Charley might be in over her head.

Charley is discovering Florence and the time period, and the reader sets out on this journey and learns with her. The author brings the scenes to life with taste, sound, and many details to enable the differences to become clear while still maintaining enough familiarity to hold the readers' interest. An interesting cast of characters is introduced in these pages, each with vibrant personalities. But then, Charley isn't boring either. Her mouth tends to get the best of her, and her actions often place her in danger. Her inability to listen to Da Vinci's recommendations and stubbornness give her spice, but also make some of her decisions ridiculous for a 'smart' girl. But she's still a character to cheer for the whole way through and has a lot to learn and discover.

Fantasy steps up more in this book as Charley's devices come more into play. The entire time travel aspect stretches a little further from known scientific theories, while history and more personal matters come into play. Again, the tale ends with a cliffhanger, leaving most questions and mysteries open and unanswered—something I'm not a huge fan of in a series.

Girls who love adventure, science fiction, and history will enjoy reading this. Even more reluctant readers will enjoy diving in, considering each book stays short and too the point.


According to a study by the Girl Scouts, 74 percent of girls report an interest in STEM (science, technology, engineering and math). The problem starts when they decide to pursue a career—only 13 percent express an interest in STEM as their top career choice. The result is some 200,000 STEM jobs going unfilled annually in the United States despite the fact that women in STEM fields earn 35 percent more than their peers.

“This is why so many organizations have launched STEM initiatives for girls, including the Girl Scouts, NASA and the New York Academy of Sciences. While encouraging interest in STEM is important, what they are missing is the need to teach a growth mindset that will enable lifelong learning, instill purpose and teach the kind of grit that powers through life’s setbacks,” says writer and educator Robin Stevens Payes.

Payes is tackling this problem on multiple fronts as she launches her EDGE OF YESTERDAY media company with her interactive website gamification modules, book series and teaching curriculum. “There isn’t a lot of STEM content for middle school girls that teaches the social and emotional skills they need to succeed,” says Payes. To address that, Payes is engaging young women in the media they love most—gaming, novels, videos, podcasts and social media, and combining this with innovative lesson plans—to teach girls how to succeed in STEM and in life.

Science fiction has been a gateway for generations for STEM achievers. In her science fiction series, the EDGE OF YESTERDAY, which continues with the DA VINCI’S WAY (Small Batch Books; October 2018), Payes introduces readers to heroine Charley Morton.  The eighth-grader creates the science fair project of the century—or perhaps the 13th century—when she finds a way to travel back in time to meet her hero, Leonardo da Vinci. Payes uses da Vinci’s Key to Universal Learning:

On the EDGE OF YESTERDAY website, Payes encourages interactive learning by inviting young readers on a time travel journey to the Heroes of History, including da Vinci, Emilie du Chatelet, Albert Einstein, Hedy Lamarr, and present-day Renaissance heroes Tiffany Shlain, Diana Gabaldon, Erich Robinson-Tillenburg. The Teaching Lab opens channels to create STEM fan fiction complete with the inspiring Word of the Week.

And here she is...

ROBIN STEVENS PAYES is the author of Edge of Yesterday, a serial science fiction story and interactive web platform designed to blow young minds, tap creative juices, and explore the truths our stories are telling us in IRL. She works with teens through the Maryland Writers Association teen clubs, Girls in Technology, and the Center for Transformative Teaching and Learning.

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