Use code DAD23 for 20% off + Free shipping on $45+ Shop Now!
Max Einstein: Rebels with a Cause
By Chris Grabenstein
Illustrated by Beverly Johnson
Formats and Prices
- Hardcover $14.99 $19.99 CAD
- ebook $9.99 $12.99 CAD
- Audiobook Download (Unabridged)
- Trade Paperback $8.99
This item is a preorder. Your payment method will be charged immediately, and the product is expected to ship on or around September 9, 2019. This date is subject to change due to shipping delays beyond our control.
Also available from:
Max Einstein was miserable, doing her least favorite thing in the world: NOTHING!
The world’s not gonna save itself! she thought.
Yes, she knew there were dangers lurking around every corner, especially after her successful adventure in Africa. But she was tired of following orders. Of “lying low” and “playing it safe.” She had to get out of the room that was starting to feel more and more like a prison—complete with guards, who were stationed in the room across the hall, trying their best to disappear, which was extremely hard to do when you were a pair of six-foot-tall bodybuilders in tight-fitting suits.
Okay, to be fair, they were Max’s bodyguards, there to protect her from the Corp—a dangerous group of evildoers that would do anything to get their hands on who they considered the smartest girl in the world. But still. Max hadn’t asked for them. They were Ben’s idea. Ben worried a lot, especially for a fourteen-year-old billionaire. (Yeah.)
Max checked the weather app on her smartphone. Ninety-two degrees with 90 percent humidity. Sweltering. New York City could become a steamy concrete sauna in the summer.
“I need to be outside,” she told the Einstein bobblehead doll smiling at her from inside the battered old suitcase she’d propped open in the corner of her small dormitory room. It was Max’s portable shrine to all things Einstein. She used to have a very nice, brand-new apartment over a renovated horse stable. But a few months ago, Ben had insisted that Max move somewhere safer and more “secure” where she could spend most of her time doing what she was doing this weekend.
A body at rest tends to stay at rest, she told herself, remembering Sir Isaac Newton’s first law of motion. A body in motion will remain in motion.
It was time to get her body moving.
Max pulled her curly mop of copper-colored hair into a ponytail. Slipping a bathrobe over her shorts and T-shirt (which had Star Wars lettering spelling out “May the Mass Times Acceleration Be with You”), she slid into a pair of rubbery flip-flops. She tucked her sneakers and socks into a shower tote, hiding them underneath the shampoo and loofah sponge. She also slid in a small hand mirror.
Max stepped into the hallway outside Room 723 and headed up the corridor.
The two bodyguards, both men, stepped out of the room across the hall. They wore matching curly-wire earpieces.
“Hi, guys,” said Max. “Just going to grab a quick shower.”
The two men nodded. “Be, uh, safe,” said the one named Jamal.
“We’ll be here if, you know, you need anything,” said the younger one, whose name was Danny.
Neither one of them wanted to be anywhere near the girls’ communal bathrooms in a college dormitory. Yes, Max was only twelve, but she was at Columbia University. Not as a student. She was what they called an “adjunct professor.” That meant, during the week, she taught college kids.
“Thanks, guys,” Max said to her two bodyguards.
She ambled up the hall as casually as she could. The showers were located just past Room 716.
So were the exit stairs.
She glanced down at the hand mirror that she had positioned so she could see what was happening behind her. When she walked past the staircase door and made the right turn into the bathroom, both men disappeared back into Room 722. Max flushed the toilet, just to give them something watery to listen to. Then, she hung up her bathrobe, sat down on the commode, lost the flip-flops, and changed into her walking shoes.
She snuck one more rearview-mirror glance up the hallway.
The coast was clear.
She’d come back for the shower tote later. She might even take a shower.
But first she had to bust out of “prison” and go DO something… anything!
On her own.
With no protection.
Max hustled down the seven flights of stairs and exited John Jay Hall.
When she reached Amsterdam Avenue and 114th Street, she started heading north at a brisk pace, her radar up. She wasn’t being followed.
At 120th Street, she pulled out her secure phone (another “gift” from Ben) and tapped the speed dial number for Charl and Isabl, the highly skilled tactical team that headed up security for the Change Makers Institute, where Max was considered “The Chosen One.”
That title always made Max roll her eyes.
“The Chosen One.”
It sounded so… so… Harry Potter.
But Ben, the super-rich benefactor, had selected Max to head up his team of elite young geniuses, all of whom were charged with making the world a better place.
Ben was an ambitious young guy with big dreams and an even bigger budget. “We aim to make significant changes to save this planet and the humans who inhabit it,” Max had been told when she visited the CMI headquarters in Jerusalem. And Ben only trusted kids to help him do it.
“Max?” Charl answered. He had an interesting accent that Max still couldn’t quite place. Israeli? Eastern European? Basically, it was mysterious and foreign. “Where are you?”
“What? Are Jamal and Danny with you?”
“No. But it’s not their fault. They think I’m in the shower.”
Charl sighed. “Max, we talked about this. You need security. The Corp has spies everywhere.…”
The Corp. The evil empire out to stop the CMI. Where Ben and the CMI wanted to make changes and improve the human condition, the Corp wanted to make money and improve the bottom line in its bank accounts. One member, Dr. Zacchaeus Zimm, also wanted to lure Max away. He was like the Corp’s Darth Vader, always trying to tempt Max to join the dark side of the Force.
So far, it wasn’t working.
But Dr. Zimm had hinted that he knew something about Max’s past. He might even know who her parents were and why she was named “Max Einstein.” Max couldn’t remember her parents. She’d lived in orphanages, foster care facilities, and with other homeless people her whole life. Until, of course, the CMI came along and flew her off to Jerusalem.
“Max?” Charl’s voice was strong and firm over the phone. “Your job, right now, is to stay safe. Dr. Zimm and the Corp are still after you. Please return to your dormitory. Immediately.”
“When’s our next mission?” asked Max, basically ignoring Charl. She was a lot like her idol, Dr. Einstein. She didn’t do well with authority or direct orders.
“There will be no ‘next mission’ for the CMI if Dr. Zimm grabs you, Max.”
“Fine,” she said. “Then I’ll have to find my own.”
“Just obeying Sir Newton’s first law, Charl. I’m a body in motion. I need to keep moving.”
She disconnected the call and powered down her phone so Charl couldn’t call back.
When she reached Martin Luther King Boulevard, she turned right and headed into Harlem.
As the boulevard angled into West 125th Street, Max saw a group of happy kids outside a bodega. They were jumping through the sideways stream of water gushing out of an open fire hydrant, trying to cool down.
“Hey, you kids!” shouted an angry old man on a stoop. He had a towel wrapped around his waist. “I’m trying to take a shower upstairs! You’re making the water pressure drop!”
The kids just laughed and splashed some more.
“That does it! I’m calling the cops.”
The old man shook his fist and headed inside, no doubt to pick up a phone and punch in 911.
Max sprang into action. She had to. She couldn’t lie low or play it safe. Not when a bunch of kids were about to get into trouble for just being kids.
Fortunately, the open fire hydrant was just up the block from the FDNY’s Engine 37/Ladder 40.
Even better, the firefighters in that house owed Max a favor.
About two months ago, right after she first moved to the Columbia dorm, she was able to help Engine 37 on a call to a burning building. They were having trouble assessing the situation on the upper floors, because their brand-new drone—which carried both a high-def and an infrared camera—wouldn’t lift off. The drone’s cameras were supposed to let the chief at the street-level command post see where the firefighters were on the roof and what the fire was up to behind the walls.
But the drone wouldn’t fly.
So Max gave him a quick flying-camera hack.
“Take the cameras off the drone,” she told the battalion chief. “Find a clear plastic garbage bag and a wire hanger to make a rig for the cameras. Grab a can of Sterno out of that grocery store, light it, secure it to the coat-hanger rig, and we can make a rudimentary hot air balloon to float your cameras up to the roof.”
The battalion chief, whose badge ID’d him as Morkal, stared at her.
Max held his gaze.
“You heard the girl,” Chief Morkal barked. “Make me a hot air balloon out of a garbage bag! Stat!”
“Just make sure it’s all clear, sir,” reminded Max. “Otherwise…”
“Right. All we’re gonna see is a black screen.”
The firefighters rigged up the mini-blimp and sent the two cameras up to do their job.
Now Max hoped she could ask these same firefighters to help the neighborhood kids who, in their attempt to cool off, had broken the law by wrenching open a fire hydrant.
She burst into the firehouse and saw a familiar face.
“Oh, hey, Max. How’s it going?”
“Not bad, sir, but, well, I need your help.”
“You want to make a bigger balloon?” cracked Chief Morkal. “Maybe enter it in the Macy’s parade?”
“No, sir. I mean, that would be fun… but, right now, we have a fire hydrant situation.”
“Up the street. It needs a sprinkler cap.”
“Not a problem.”
“Except it needs it right now. Otherwise, a bunch of kids could wind up in trouble. NYC municipal code says the penalty is thirty days in jail or a thousand-dollar fine.”
“They opened the hydrant?”
“Let me go grab some tools,” said the battalion chief.
“You’re going to do it yourself?”
“Hey, I owe you, Max. Plus, it’s so hot, I might join the kids jumpin’ through the water!”
Max and the chief marched up the street with a spray cap—a clever device that turned the gush of water jetting out of a hydrant into a sprinkler. The nozzle would limit the amount of water exploding out of the open hydrant from one thousand gallons per minute to about twenty-five.
“Won’t sting so much, either,” Chief Morkal told the kids when the cap was safely installed and spraying out water in a cluster of gentle, arcing streams.
The kids were happy.
The old man who’d wanted to take a shower was happy, too. In fact, he came back outside in his swimsuit so he could jump through the gurgling water with his young neighbors.
The police were thrilled that the situation had “cooled down” before they arrived.
Max believed that for every problem there was a solution.
You just had to find it and then do the hard work to make it happen.
With the hydrant problem solved, Max was feeling giddy.
She was free, free, free. No dorm room. No bodyguards. No Ben or Charl or Isabl telling her what she should be doing.
She started riffing on old-school song titles. (For reasons beyond comprehension, even for an Einstein, Max loved classic rock.)
Free Bird! Free Ride! I’m Free! People Got to Be Free! Rockin’ in the Free World! I Want to Be Free!
Max hopped on the subway at 125th Street and St. Nicholas Avenue and headed downtown to visit an old friend. She hopped off the A train at West 4th Street—the same stop she used when she went to NYU—and clambered up the steep steps.
Washington Square Park was only a few blocks away. She found Mr. Leonard “Lenny” Weinstock exactly where she hoped she would: at the concrete chess tables.
“Hey, Mr. Weinstock!” she called out with a wave.
“Maxine?” said Mr. Weinstock, in a British accent that Max always figured was fake, even though Mr. Weinstock claimed that he graduated from Oxford and was close personal friends with all the royals. “What are you doing downtown, Maxine?”
“I needed to get out, sir. Stretch my legs and my brain. You up for a game?”
“I’m not certain that would be such a good idea.…”
“Why not? You’re sitting at a chess table. You have all the pieces set up—”
“I was contemplating a game against myself.”
“Where’s the fun in that?”
“Simple, Maxine. Even when I lose, I also win.”
“Come on,” Max urged. “This won’t take long. Last time, the game was over in three moves.”
“But, Max, correct me if I’m wrong, aren’t you supposed to be lying low and playing it safe?”
“I’d rather play chess. Unless, of course, you’re chicken.”
“Hardly.” Mr. Weinstock bopped a button on top of his speed chess timer. “Game on.”
Max took it easy on Mr. Weinstock. This time, she defeated him in five moves.
“Ah, the Scholar’s Mate scenario,” said Mr. Weinstock, admiringly. “Well played, Maxine. Well played, indeed.”
“You ready to go again?”
“Where are Jamal and Danny?”
“Probably in the girls’ bathroom, wondering how I can take a shower without running any water.”
“I beg your pardon?”
“Long story. I wanted to spend my free Sunday being, I don’t know, free.”
“Even though it might jeopardize your CMI team’s next big project?”
“There is no next big project.”
“Yes, there is. Mr. Abercrombie is fielding requests and formulating an action plan.”
Mr. Abercrombie is what Mr. Weinstock called Ben. Probably because the CMI benefactor’s full name was Benjamin Franklin Abercrombie and Mr. Weinstock, who was in his fifties, was more formal than most.
“You and your team did amazing things with your solar power solutions in the Congo, Maxine,” Mr. Weinstock continued. “Amazing things, indeed.”
“True, I guess. But the key word in your first sentence was ‘did.’ It’s already been done. What do we do next? What do we do now?”
“Simple. Be patient.”
“I’m not the only one eager to get going again,” said Max. “I’ve been texting and e-mailing with everybody else on the team. They’re all itching for more action. Even Klaus.”
Mr. Weinstock put a finger to his lips. “Be careful, Max,” he whispered. “The Corp has eyes and ears everywhere.”
That startled Max. Just slightly.
“Do they know where I am?” she whispered back, her eyes darting around, scanning all the strangers in the park, looking for a familiar egg-shaped sinister face. One with sharp teeth too large for his smile. Dr. Zimm.
“No, Maxine,” said Mr. Weinstock. “They do not know your current residence. However, they do know where you used to live.”
With that, he pulled out his phone.
“I think you should watch this video clip, dear.”
Max looked at the screen on the phone, recognized the image.
It was her old apartment, the one above the horse stables.
“I figured you guys had security cameras watching me,” she said.
“Indeed,” said Mr. Weinstock, tapping the Play icon. “Several of them.”
“So, why aren’t I in the picture?”
“This particular footage was recorded just yesterday. Long after you’d checked out.”
“No one’s in my old room? I left months ago.…”
“There have been several formerly homeless tenants since,” said Mr. Weinstock. “But, fortunately, thanks to our training initiatives and contacts in the business world, all of them have moved on to new jobs and homes of their own. Your old room was vacant when these unannounced visitors dropped by. Ah. Here they come. Through the bathroom window.”
Max studied the high-definition footage, shot from multiple camera angles. It jumped around like an action movie—from the entrance to the living room to the kitchen and back again. Two men dressed in black cargo pants, black turtlenecks, and black beanies could be seen outside the window, jimmying it open with a pry bar.
“Seriously?” said Max. “The Corp’s thugs dress like cat burglars in a heist movie? Did they forget their burglar masks?”
“No, we suspect they wanted us to see their faces.”
“So we could run them through our facial recognition software and realize that the first man into your room, the one with the tiger tattoo crawling up the back of his neck, is Friedrich Hoffman. Very ruthless. Very efficient. He also enjoys opera.”
Max looked at Mr. Weinstock. He shrugged.
“We all have our hobbies, Max.”
Max watched as the two men in black trashed her old room. They pulled drawers out of dressers. Flipped over the mattress. Ransacked the kitchen cupboards.
“Ah,” said Mr. Weinstock, “the second gentleman, the one so mercilessly tearing apart the cabinetry, is Mr. Pinky Mulligan.”
“And what does Pinky like?” asked Max. “Irish step dancing?”
“Not particularly. However, Pinky is so named because, as you might notice if we were to zoom in a little closer on his left hand, he lost his pinky finger in a barroom brawl when he was sixteen. Both of these gentlemen have extensive arrest records. They are also known foot soldiers for the Corp and, according to our best intel, report directly to Dr. Zacchaeus Zimm.”
Suddenly, the surveillance video ended.
Ben was on the screen.
“And this, Max,” he said, “is why you need to stick to our plan.”
Max couldn’t help but grin. She did every time she saw Ben. He was kind of quirky. Kind of geeky. Kind of cute. He was also super intelligent and had a great heart, the kind that really wanted to save the world, even though, when it came to actually being in the world, Ben was super awkward. His social skills weren’t the best. Sort of like Max’s. Maybe because they both lived in their heads too much. Maybe because they’d both lost their parents at a very young age.
Actually, Max had never really known her parents.
Loss. Loneliness. They had that in common. Maybe that’s why she and Ben got along so well.
“So, Max—I mean Adjunct Professor Paula Ehrenfest…”
Now Ben made Max laugh. The alias they’d created for Max’s position at Columbia University (a position paid for by Ben through his Benjamin Franklin Abercrombie Foundation) was a tribute to one of Albert Einstein’s physicist friends, Paul Ehrenfest.
“… you see what the Corp is capable of. Now will you please listen to me? Your next project is coming. Soon. I promise. We’re fielding several requests, looking for the perfect opportunity. Right now, the most important thing you can do is to stay safe! You’re my team leader.”
Okay, thought Max. If the warning comes directly from Ben, I should probably listen.
“Fine,” Max said when Ben’s video clip ended. “You and Ben made your point, Mr. Weinstock. I’ll head back up to Columbia on the subway.”
“No need,” said Mr. Weinstock, pocketing his phone. “I believe your ride just arrived.”
He nudged his head to the left.
To where the sunglasses-wearing Jamal and Danny stood with their arms crossed over their chests.
And, yes, they were both wearing suits. Even though it was 95 degrees in the shade.
“Please don’t do that again, Max,” said Jamal as he piloted the black Lincoln MKZ uptown.
“You made me go into the bathroom,” said Danny. “Women yelled at me, Max. My ears are still ringing.”
“Your face is still kind of red, too,” said Max.
“Yeah, Danny,” said Jamal, and laughed. “It is. What’d they call you?”
Danny slumped down in his seat. “A pawn of the patriarchy.”
“Nice,” said Max.
“Look, Max,” said Jamal, “this little cat-and-mouse game has been fun, but word is the Corp is on your trail.”
“Yeah,” said Max, gazing out the window as the car rolled north through the canyons of Manhattan. “Ben told me.”
“So, you’ll play nice?” said Jamal, glancing at her in the rearview mirror.
“Good. My daughter’s dance recital is next weekend. Don’t want to miss it because I’m chasing after you.”
“But that thing with the mirror tucked into the shower tote so you could see behind you?” said Danny. “That was smart, Max. Very impressive.”
On Monday morning, Max (a.k.a. Adjunct Professor Paula Ehrenfest) was walking down the seventh-floor corridor of John Jay Hall, flanked by Jamal and Danny. She was off to teach her first class of the day.
“Excuse me, Paula?”
It was Nancy Hanker. The resident adviser for the seventh floor. RAs were supposed to plan community-building activities for the floor and help residents if they had any problems or issues.
They were not supposed to give residents the stink-eye, which was, basically, all Nancy Hanker ever did when she saw Max, Jamal, or Danny.
Nancy Hanker did not like the twelve-year-old physics prodigy residing on her floor. She also didn’t like her bodyguards.
“Hey, Nancy,” said Max. “We’re kind of in a hurry. I’m lecturing about special relativity and relativistic kinematics this morning.”
Nancy didn’t blink. “It’s about your… security team.”
“Ma’am?” said Jamal, stepping forward. “Is there a problem?”
“Yes. This is a dormitory. None of the other residents have private bodyguards.”
“I’m sure if the president’s daughter were going to school here, she’d have Secret Service protection.”
“I’ll let you know if it ever happens,” said Nancy. “I talked to campus security. You two gentlemen can’t stay on the floor anymore.”
“Excuse me, ma’am,” said Danny. “We are here on—”
Nancy showed him the palm of her hand.
“I know. Some wealthy benefactor endowed the adjunct professor princess here and paid for you guys to be her private security detail. But we have a housing shortage at Columbia. We need your room. For a student! Rent a van. Sleep in it. Have a nice day.”
Nancy Hanker returned to her room and slammed the door.
“This presents a problem,” muttered Jamal.
“There are no problems, only solutions,” Max muttered back.
“John Lennon wrote that,” said Danny. “For a song.”
“Yes, he did,” said Max. “Come on, you guys. We can’t be late for class. We’ll deal with this other stuff later. That’s why time was invented.”
“Huh?” said Danny.
“Just something Albert Einstein said: ‘The only reason there is time is so that everything doesn’t happen at once.’”
Physics 1601 met in a lecture hall on the third floor of Pupin Hall on the Columbia campus.
All 272 seats were full of eager students peering down at Max, who looked even tinier in the well of the amphitheater. Her bodyguards, Jamal and Danny, were in the first row. They did not have notebooks or pens.
“Today,” Max told her audience, “I’d like to look at one of Albert Einstein’s most famous thought experiments—what he called Gedankenexperiment—”
“Because it’s German!” said a student in the front row named Johnathan Phillips (the same student who thought he should be leading the lecture instead of “some twelve-year-old nerd with frizzy hair”).
Max ignored Johnathan Phillips. She often had to.
- Praise for Max Einstein: The Genius Experiment:
- On Sale
- Sep 9, 2019
- Page Count
- 320 pages
- jimmy patterson