Friday, November 16, 2012

Endangered Species: Never Say Genius (The Genius Files) by Dan Gutman

One good yank and Pepsi’s glass tube toppled over too, with the same result. She was spitting out ice cream. Coke rushed to untie her and noticed her skin had turned a pale blue. He looked around frantically for something to warm her up.

“Quick! Rub this all over yourself.”

“What is it?”

“Hot fudge."

The hot fudge felt so good on his skin that Coke covered himself with the stuff too. Soon their body temperatures were rising and they were feeling almost normal again. They stepped over the broken glass carefully and ran out of the Mister Softee truck.
They ran into a shallow pool of water at the end of a log flume ride and jumped in.

Mr. And Mrs. McDonald spotted them in the distance.

“What happened to you two?” Mrs. McDonald said.

“We were kidnapped by an evil Mister Softee,” Coke explained. “He tried to induce
hypothermia by covering our bodies with ice cream."

“Ha, ha!” Dr. McDonald said. “That’s a good one. You kids crack me

It’s a family vacation trip from coast to coast, as the McDonalds head for a July 4 wedding of the kids’ long-lost Aunt Judy on the Mall in Washington, D.C., Professor McDonald hopes a historic site will give him an idea for his next book, and Mrs. McDonald just wants to find offbeat tourist traps for her Amazing But True blog, but thirteen-year old twins Coke and Pepsi just want to survive.

Unknown to their perennially clueless parents, Pep and Coke were recruited as part of the secret Genius mission, in which the smartest kids in American were brought together to cure he nation’s problems, but somehow their mentor Dr. Warsaw has turned rogue and has been trying to kill them all the way to Wisconsin. Pep and Coke had thought they’d finished him off in the first book, The Genius Files: Mission Unstoppable, only to find that he’s been replaced by Archie Clone, a red-haired teenager who looks amazingly like the comic book character, but is on an evil mission to kill off all the genius kids and keep their stipends for himself.

Between having majorly boring days visiting such iconic shrines as the world’s largest concrete egg, the Duct Tape Museum, the Hoover Historical Center (which turns out to be a museum of vacuum cleaners, to the dismay of Dr. McDonald, who is considering President Hoover as his next book subject), the site of the first McDonald’s fast food shop, (where Archie Clone attempts to French-fry the twins in a reality display) the World’s Largest Pants and The World’s Largest Shoe Museums,
and missing the World’s Largest Hairball Center, by only a, well, hair, the McDonald parents make their way merrily along all the minor highways headed east, as Pep deciphers messages everywhere left behind by Archie Clone, his sidekick Mrs. Higgins (formerly the twins’ teacher), and a bunch of gumbahs nicknamed Bowler Dudes for their Derby hats. For his part, Coke provides arcane bits of knowledge which occasionally come in handy as the twins avoid assassination at Wrigley Field, Cedar Point, and the Rock ‘n’ Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland, where fittingly Mrs. Higgins tries to kill them off with mega-loud speakers blasting Megadeth tracks.

And when finally the kids confront Archie Clone just as he attempts to drop them from his helicopter onto the spiky lightning rods atop the Washington Monument, Pep and Coke think they have it made at last, with nothing worse ahead but suffering through a day in their uncomfortable Sunday-best getups at the wedding. But in Dan Gutman’s second book in the Genius Files series, The Genius Files #2: Never Say Genius (Harper, 2012), there is no rest for kid geniuses on the way to the successful completion of their mission. Gutman, the winner of at least eighteen children’s choice state awards, knows how to keep kids laughing through wacky adventures with whacked-out villains and hairbreadth escapes that keep those pages turning at a fast clip and make them eager for the next installment in the series. As Kirkus Reviews concurs, "... the author brings his confused but resourceful youngsters to an explosive climax and a shocking revelation that guarantees further adventures on the road back to the left coast. Nothing spices up a boring road trip like moments of extreme terror.

Gutman is the best-selling author of many top-selling, kid-pleasing series, which manage to interweave a lot of historical and scientific information into their comic plots, including The Baseball Card Adventures and My Weird School Daze and state award winners such as The Million Dollar Shot and The Homework Machine. Gutman's latest non-fiction offering, which bravely goes where no kid's author has gone before, is Election!: A Kid's Guide to Picking Our President (2012 Edition).

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