Friday, March 10, 2017

Book review - Jack and the Geniuses at the Bottom of the World

Title: Jack and the Geniuses at the Bottom of the World
Author: Bill Nye and Gregory Mone
Genre: mystery/adventure
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Summary(provided by publisher): In the series opener, Jack and the Geniuses: At The Bottom of The World, readers meet Jack and his foster siblings, Ava and Matt, who are orphans. But they’re not your typical kind of orphans—they’re geniuses. Well, Ava and Matt are, which sometimes makes life difficult for twelve-year-old Jack. Ava speaks multiple languages and builds robots for fun, and Matt is into astronomy and a whiz at math. As for Jack, it’s hard to stand out when he’s surrounded by geniuses all the time.
When the kids try to spy on Dr. Hank Witherspoon, one of the world’s leading scientists, they end up working for him in his incredible laboratory. Soon, Hank and the kids travel to Antarctica for a prestigious science competition, but they find that all is not as it seems: A fellow scientist has gone missing, and so has any trace of her research. Could someone be trying to use her findings to win the contest? It’s up to Jack, Ava, and Matt to find the missing scientist and discover who’s behind it all—before it’s too late.
Integrating real science facts with humor and suspense, and featuring an ensemble cast of loveable boy and girl characters, this uniquely engaging series is an irresistible chemical reaction for middle-grade readers. With easy-to-read language presented in a fun, motivating, and accessible way, this series opener is a great book for both inquisitive kids and reluctant readers. The book also includes information about the science discussed and used to solve the mystery, as well as a cool science project about density that kids can do at home or in the classroom.

My opinion: The cast of characters in this novel, while not particularly complex, is charming. Each character has a strength and a weakness that affects the plot. The pacing is solid. The scientific explanations are, in large part, well integrated into the narration. They flow naturally as the plot progresses, not pulling us out of the moment. There are a few weaknesses. There is a fair amount of unnecessary gross-out humor. And I was a little troubled by the way the other characters, even his de facto family, undervalued Jack. He seems to accept doing all of the grunt work as a natural result of being less smart than the others, as if he has less value for anything other than manual labor. I am hopeful, though,  that his position will strengthen as the series progresses. All in all, this is a solid start to a solidly entertaining and sneakily educational series.

More information: Jack and the Geniuses at the Bottom of the World releases April 4.
Advanced Reader Copy provided by NetGalley.

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