I’m always on the lookout for interesting science experiments and projects to do with the my kids at the library. I got really excited when this book came in. I read it in December…but here’s the review in February. Funny how these things pile up. Still, better late than never.
Nick and Tesla’s High-Voltage Danger Lab: A Mystery with Electromagnets, Burglar Alarms, and Other Gadgets You Can Build Yourself
By “Science Bob” Pflugfelder
Nick and Tesla are 11-year-old siblings who are sciencely slanted. When their parents are suddenly sent to __ in order to observe the amazing habits of soy beans, siblings are sent to live with their Uncle Newt, a brilliant but scatterbrained (and a bit irresponsible) inventor who might not quite be in touch with reality.
It’s not long before Nick and Tesla, while trying to keep themselves occupied, find a bit of trouble of their own. Their adventures include creepy black vans, a mysterious girl in a window, vicious dogs, and all kinds of MacGyverish contraptions like 9-volt burglar alarms, electromagnets, and luminescent mobile tracking devices.
As the story progresses there are mountains of tin cans, a lost necklace, a kidnapping, beds of rotting food, and blue prints to recreate the experiments yourself!
What I liked:
This book was a fair bit of fun. The story was simply put together and easy to follow. Nick and Tesla were fun characters that portrayed believable feelings that readers could identify with, even if the situations they found themselves in were not quite believable. I liked that the kids missed their parents, and the emphasis on thinking events through logically, even if they didn’t always think the most logically.
It was quick paced and easy to read. I liked that both Nick and Tesla thought up ideas, not just one or the other–having the emphasis on any kid being smart is a nice step away from having one be really smart and the other lag behind or be nothing bu comic relief. It was empowering to see both boys and girls enjoying science, but not picking one over the other. It was also refreshing to see Nick being scared during situations, showing it is ok for boys to feel emotions and not have to be macho all the time. This was true for the other boys in the story, too. Definitely a nice change.
What I didn’t like:
The story seemed more of a vehicle for the science projects than as a story–which is fine, as the projects are super fun–but I think this aspect dragged the story down a bit. It seemed that everything that was happening occurred so N + T could build another contraption.
And speaking of situations, some of the situations the kids found themselves in were a little unbelievable. For example: their uncle forgot them at the airport. Ok, I get it. Mistakes happen and it is within his character. But, I am not sure how many 11 years olds would be able to disembark a plane alone, walk through the airport and collect their luggage alone, and hail a taxi alone. The adults in this story were either very irresponsible, or very villainous.
All in all: I would recommend this book to middle grade readers. I’m thinking end of 4th grade to the beginning of 6th. It was fun and had some nifty projects. Who doesn’t like mentos rockets?