Friday, November 8, 2013

Nick and Tesla's High Voltage Danger Lab - Bob Pflugfelder and Steve Hockensmith

Summary:  Nick and Tesla are bright 11-year-old siblings with a knack for science, electronics, and getting into trouble. When their parents mysteriously vanish, they’re sent to live with their Uncle Newt, a brilliant inventor who engineers top-secret gadgets for a classified government agency. It’s not long before Nick and Tesla are embarking on adventures of their own—engineering all kinds of outrageous MacGyverish contraptions to save their skin: 9-volt burglar alarms, electromagnets, mobile tracking devices, and more. Readers are invited to join in the fun as each story contains instructions and blueprints for five different projects.

In Nick and Tesla’s High-Voltage Danger Lab, we meet the characters and learn how to make everything from rocket launchers to soda-powered vehicles. Learning about science has never been so dangerous—or so much fun!  (Image and summary from  I was provided with a complimentary copy of the book in exchange for my honest review.)

My Review:  Nick and Tesla have every right to be grumpy.  Their parents, governmental agriculturalists, are off in Uzbekistan researching and observing soybeans, and instead of being sent to one of their responsible relatives, they've been packed off to spend their summer with their Uncle Newt - who is eccentric, to be kind.  We first meet Newt glued to his basement floor by his own (malfunctioning) spray-on clothing.  Nick and Tesla are only in California for a matter of hours before they find themselves embroiled in a dilemma, which soon spirals into a mystery, complete with dark SUVs following them around.  Hopefully, their wits, along with their scientific knowledge and invention, will get them through the worst!

This was such a fun book.  Well-written, just enough mystery to keep a child engrossed without being too intense, but funny at the same time.  Even better, and this is what sold my boy, Pflugfelder and Hockensmith have included detailed (and illustrated) instructions on how to build a few of Nick and Tesla's inventions. I can see this being a series that my kids will enjoy for a long time, and it's one I feel comfortable with them reading.  Uncle Newt, the ridiculous uncle charged with their care, may not be as present as a parent would hope, but what presence he has, he is proven to be more adept at this guardianship than first glance would suggest.  Nick and Tesla are bright, well-behaved, work well together (with a little family-based ribbing), and are good thinkers.  I've noticed a difference in my kids' behavior when they read books with stinkers for protagonists, they tend to adopt some of those qualities.  The reverse is true ... and I'd be fine with having these kids as mine.  They even enlist parental help for their inventions when necessary!

My Rating:  Five stars.  I can't wait for Book Two in this series!

For the sensitive reader:  Nick and Tesla are temporarily kidnapped, but they escape and rescue their friends and another girl in the process.

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