Monday, May 26, 2014

Nick and Tesla's High-Voltage Danger Lab by "Science Bob" Pfugfelder and Steve Hockensmith

Nick and Tesla's High-Voltage Danger Lab is another Middle School read, but very different from Manolito Four-Eyes.  Though Nick and Tesla are just a year older than Manolito, they're much advanced in schooling, intelligence and temperament.   These Nick and Tesla books are the sort that parents (and doting relatives) will likely want to buy - child inventors with amazing skills in science, engineering, and math whose exploits get us to perform scientific experiments and develop an appreciation for science, math and engineering.  Fortunately, Nick and Tesla are kids books with personality, humor and an adventure.

  • Nick and Tesla's High-Voltage Danger Lab 
  • by Science Bob Pfugfelder and Steve Hockensmith
  • Age Range: 9 - 12 years
  • Grade Level: 4 - 7
  • Series: Nick and Tesla (Book 1)
  • ISBN-10: 1594746486 - Hardcover $12.95
  • Publisher: Quirk Books (November 5, 2013), 240 pages.
  • Review copy courtesy of Quirk Books.

Eleven-year old twins Nick and Tesla were looking forward to a trip to Disneyland with their parents but a work emergency (soybean irrigation issues in Uzbekistan in the far reaches of the former Soviet Union) forces them to stay with their scientist and absentminded uncle Newt.   They arrive at Half Moon Bay, California to find a suburban house with a self mowing lawn.  The inside of the house is just as strange: full of inventions in different stages of development, various lab equipment, a Christmas tree, a polar bear, and strange food combinations. Their Uncle Newt is sprawled on the floor, made immobile by strange orange foam.  The judicious use of a specific purple spray destroys the sticky bond of the orange substance - and the twins are welcomed.

Nicke and Telsa find unprecedented personal freedom which they exploit fully.  It starts innocently enough - with the low-tech bottle launcher that they make one afternoon.  Science Bob includes instructions on how to make the bottle launcher, so it's possible for readers to try the experiment on their own - with adult supervision.  

The rocket launcher leads Nick and Tesla to the abandoned large estate at the end of their block where they find a mysterious young girl in an upstairs window, protected by a pack of frighteningly angry dogs and suspicious characters.

Nick, Tesla and their young neighbors decide to investigate further but they don't do it like regular kids.  Their special interests and skills lead them to make and to teach us how to make a mints-and-soda robocat dog distractor.  Remember the YouTube videos of menthos and coke explosions? Nick and Tesla take the idea behind those explosions and put it to good use. Science Bob, Nick and Tesla incorporate science and engineering in coming up with solutions and they do so in ways that make science fun.  Think of Invisible ink trackers and electromagnetic answers to locked doors and home alarm systems.

The science and experiments are tools to help Nick and Tesla solve problems, save a young girl and make sense of the strange goings on in their new neighborhood.  Nick and Tesla's High-Voltage Danger Lab is an unusual adventure story that introduces us to fun new detective heroes.  

About the Authors:
"Science Bob" Pfugfelder teaches elementary school in Newton, Massachusetts.  Steve Hockensmith writes mysteries in Alameda, California. 

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