Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Review: Nick and Tesla's High-Voltage Danger Lab

Title: Nick and Tesla's High-Voltage Danger Lab
Authors: "Science Bob" Pflugfelder and Steve Hockensmith
Genre: Children's Literature
Published: November 5, 2013
Pages: 237
Rating: 4 / 5
Challenges: N/A

Synopsis: From the back cover: "An abandoned house at the end of the block. A mysterious girl in an upstairs window. A strange black SUV lurking around every corner. When Nick and Tesla Holt are sent to live with their eccentric Uncle Newt, they find their new neighborhood is full of secrets. What the heck is going on?
To unravel the mysteries (and save their skins), Nick and Tesla must use everyday household objects to build electromagnets, rocket launchers, and other crazy contraptions - and instructions are included throughout the story so you can build them, too!"

My Review: I requested this book from Library Thing's Early Reviewers list specifically because the premise sounded so interesting. I'm a teacher, and I've seen first-hand how difficult it can be to get kids into learning. A book that includes science projects that you can do at home? Sign me up!

I'm obviously not the target audience for this series, but I did enjoy it. The projects range in complexity (a few require adult supervision or assistance with power tools), but they didn't feel gimmicky or shoe-horned-in, which was one concern I had before reading. The characters are well-rounded and likeable: Nick and Tesla are both intelligent, but have distinct personalities that have nothing to do with being twins named for a respected inventor. Their uncle, Newt, stays just this side of "Mad Scientist" caricature by attempting to (and somewhat succeeding at?) being a Responsible Caregiver. The plot is a pretty standard mystery story, but even I didn't figure it out until the end. The only quibble I have is that this is obviously the first book in a series because it leaves you with so many questions about Nick and Tesla's parents. I'm not sure if I'll continue to read the series personally, but I'll recommend it to younger readers without hesitation.

Full disclosure: I received my copy from Quirk Books through the Library Thing Early Reviewers program. I'm planning on passing it along to my cousin and his kids, because his oldest daughter is really into engineering and I think she'd like making some of these experiments (with his supervision!).

Other Reviews: If you have reviewed this book as well, leave me a message in the comments and I'll link to your review.