Jack and the Geniuses by Bill Nye and Gregory Mone
Summary from GoodReads:
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 lovable 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.
I will admit that I picked this book up because of Bill Nye. I often avoid books by celebrities, just because you are famous doesn’t mean you can write, but I have a soft spot for Bill and I love science so I had to give it a try. I am also always on the look out for something that will appeal to those students who only like to read non-fiction. Often they have to read something fiction for a school assignment and it can get tough to find something that they will like. I also liked that there was little science experiment at the end.
The story was quite good and kept my attention for the most part. I really liked Jack and his siblings. They all have a great relationship with each other, even when Jack struggles to understand his genius siblings. The story is told only from Jack’s point of view and I do usually prefer to hear from only one person, but in this case I wanted to hear something from Ava and Hank as well. I think it would be interesting to hear their thoughts about each other and about Jack as well. Their situation is unusual, three tweens living on their own, but they all seem to care about each other and though they are not related, are truly a family.
I also liked the adults that support this trio. Hank is somewhat absentminded and I think sometimes forgets that they are kids. But he means well and he does seem to care for them. Their social worker Min is not in the book much, but I still really liked her. Jack mentions her often with fondness when she is not around.
The science and the mystery are well done. Some of the science is a little futuristic, but still based on solid scientific theory. The setting of Antarctica was very cool and realistic for the most part. From the author’s note you can tell they did their research on what it is like to live and work there. The mystery of the missing scientist was also nicely done with some cool clues and detective work on Jack’s side. He may not be a genius like his siblings, but he has strengths in other ways.
Overall this is a solid read for kids who are into science. The story and the characters are engaging and likable and even when there are some scary moments, things still turn out ok.