Friday, June 19, 2015

Zap Flap! Frank Einstein and the Electro-Finger by Jon Scieszka

Frank Einstein quickly slides the lever up on the Electro-Finger. "Maybe just a bit more power!"

The raft spirals deeper into the whirlpool above the dam. Klink's webcam eye twirls in circles. "BEEEEEP!" "Badang badang badang!" bleeps Klank.

Frank analyses the situation. "So much for THAT hypothesis."

Watson pulls the tape of his mouth. "
Hypothesis? I've got a hypothesis. We are goners!"

The raft spins crazily around the inside of the whirlpool.

"OK! Electrical energy didn't work," says Frank. "Let's use Newton's Third Law!"

When Frank's arch-nemesis T. Edison destroys all sources of electricity except his hydroelectric dam, prices of service double in Midville and hit his fix-it Gramdpa's wallet hard. But Frank Einstein, boy inventor, has a plan, based on Nicola Tesla's unrealized prediction that electricity can be generated by harnessing the force from the earth's magnetic field.

Magnetism comes from moving electrons moving in huge loops.

What are moving electrons called? Electricity.

Invisible. Wireless. Electricity.

With help from his artificial intelligence robot Klink and his mechano-robot Klank, and his nature scientist classmate janegoodall, Frank sets up a demonstration of his wireless electro-finger at free movie night when most of the Midvillians are watching an old Tarzan movie at the drive-in. The demo is a success, powering the projector, sound system, and lights, but T.E. and his finger-spelling chimpanzee henchman manage to short out the town's beloved mechanical elephant Topsy and persuade the townspeople that Frank's Electro-Finger is at fault.

But Frank's loyal but non-scientific sidekick Watson, has a hot idea, to follow the energy right to the one place making electricity--the turbine beneath Edison's dam, and when Frank and Klink and Klank go looking for Watson, they find themselves prisoners of T. Edison in a rubber raft racing toward the intake valve and spinning down, down, down into that vortex toward certain destruction and victory for the power-mad T. Edison. Even Frank's magnetism theories fail him.

But not Klank's loyalty, in Jon Scieszka's sequel to his best-selling Frank Einstein and the Antimatter Motor: Book One, his magnetic latest, Frank Einstein and the Electro-Finger: Book Two (Amulet Books, 2015). There is plenty of fun in the wise-cracking interplay of Frank and his very different pals, human and robotic, an evil and literally power-mad arch villain, and a near down-the-tube wash-out for the good guys before virtue triumphs over greed again in the best sci fi tradition. However, the added virtue to Scieszka's series is the thorough review of physics that flows seamlessly through the plot, with funny but nifty illustrations by artist Brian Biggs to make the science theory clear to middle readers. Robot- and gizmo-loving boy readers will find this one right down their vortex.

Scieszka has major credentials as a writer with special insight into young readers, especially those of the male sort. The author of Guys Read: Funny Business, Scieszka has many award-winning works for kids, from his classic fractured fairy tales The True Story of the Three Little Pigs and The Frog Prince, Continued (Picture Puffin) through his award-winning fantasy series, The Time Warp Trio, his heavy-duty preschool series for young gearheads, Jon Scieszka's Trucktown, right down to his recent metabook book-about-books hit, It's a Book,, this is an author who is always on the cutting edge of writing for youngsters. For the further adventures of Frank Einstein, Scieszka also has a third book in this series forthcoming in the fall.

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