Nick and Tesla’s High-Voltage Danger Lab by “Science Bob” Pflugfelder and Steve Hockensmith, illustrations by Scott Garrett
Quirk Books, 2013. 978-1594746482
Synopsis: Nick and Tesla thought they were going to have a super fun summer with their parents. Turns out, they’re being sent to live with their eccentric Uncle Newt instead while their parents travel overseas to study soybeans. The siblings are convinced that it’s going to be the most boring summer ever…until Tesla loses her necklace when their homemade rocket misfires and goes over the fence of an old, creepy house. It’s supposed to be under renovations, but neither of them can see any sort of renovating going on. Plus, there’s that black SUV that seems to be following them ever since they left the airport…
Why I finished it: What I like the most about this series is that it features kids just being curious about the world around them. Yeah, there is some mystery involved too, but the gadgets you can build yourself really sell it. It’s encouraging kids to experiment with everyday things, to create things either just for fun or that have a practical purpose (personally, I’m still trying to figure out how to make a robot that does homework for you). Nick and Tesla could choose to be bored and stare at the walls; instead, they find a way to turn broken pieces of whatever that are scattered around their uncle’s house and turn it into something amazing. STEM is getting more and more popular in schools and libraries, and this series reinforces a lot of the themes that the program is trying to teach. The plot is easy to follow, making it easier for struggling and reluctant readers to get in on the action also. The authors do stress that some of the projects will need to be done with help from an adult, so make sure to exercise safety and caution; see if they can’t be turned into things the family can do together. It’s a quick, engaging read that will appeal to both science and mystery lovers alike. For more science fun, check out “Science Bob”‘s web site and nickandtesla.com.
Other related materials: Nick and Tesla’s Robot Army Rampage by “Science Bob” Pflugfelder and Steve Hockensmith; Nick and Tesla’s Secret Agent Gadget Battle by “Science Bob” Pflugfelder and Steve Hockensmith; Nick and Tesla’s Super-Cyborg Gadget Glove by “Science Bob” Pflugfelder and Steve Hockensmith; Nick and Tesla’s Special Effects Spectacular by “Science Bob” Pflugfelder and Steve Hockensmith; Nick and Tesla’s Solar-Powered Showdown by “Science Bob” Pflugfelder ad Steve Hockensmith; Robotics: Discover the Science and Technology of the Future with 20 Projects by Kathy Ceceri, illustrations by Sam Carbaugh; Recycled Robots: 10 Robot Projects by Robert Malone; Tinkering: Kids Learn by Making Stuff by Curt Gabrielson; Frank Einstein books by Jon Scieszka, illustrated by Brian Biggs; The Math Inspectors series by Daniel Kenney and Emily Boever; Uncle Albert series by Russell Stannard; George’s Secret Key to the Universe series by Stephen and Lucy Hawking, illustrated by Garry Parsons; Lauren Ipsum: A Story About Computer Science and Other Improbable Things by Carlos Bueno