Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Fair Advantage? Science No Fair! by Nancy Krulik and Amanda Burwasser

"Logan! I've got a surprise for you!"

My mom is an inventor. There's always some sort of surprise in her lab.

"Come on!" Mom said. "You've been asking for this since you were little!" Mom smiled really wide.

"A brother?" I shouted.

But there's no sign of a baby--no crib, no diapers--in Mom's lab. Logan looks under and behind all the science paraphernalia in the lab.

Then I saw the kid. He was staring at me.

"What's your name?" I asked. The kid didn't answer.

"Give him a few minutes," Mom said. "He's still charging."

Logan had wanted a little brother, not a cyborg. But a robot "cousin" could be pretty cool, too, he thinks--until he has to take his "cousin" Java to school and introduce him to his classmates. Right away, Java attracts the attention of the Silverstone twins, Logan's frienenemies. Java is really good at a lot of things, like math and tetherball, but ordinary idioms seem to short-circuit his brain.

"We have a extra desk in the front row," the teacher told Java. "Please take that seat."

Java walked over to the desk and picked it up . "Where would you like me to take it?" he asked.

And keeping his robot nature secret only gets harder when the teacher asks Java to work with Sherry and Jerry Silverstone on their science fair project. Logan is torn between trying to keep Java from doing something to give away his identity and working with his buddy Stanley on their own project, a potato battery.

Jerry manages to sabotage their first model, pretending to lose control of a water balloon and shorting out the potato, but that is nothing like the disaster at the actual fair when his friend Nadine is demonstrating her big electromagnet. Java gets too close and suddenly his circuits start fritzing out. At first he only spouts random, strange facts, to the amazement of the kids and their parents.

"Hairy spiders make milk. Cats cannot taste sweets. The longest toenail is...."

Suddenly smoke blasted out of Java's mouth. Steam blasted from his rear end!

"MOM!" I shouted. "HELP!"

Sometimes having a brilliant inventor for a mom is a mixed blessing, in Nancy Krulik and Amanda Burwasser's Science No Fair!: Project Droid 1 (Sky Pony Press, 2016). Kids will love fantasizing about having a robot buddy, er, cousin, and despite his slight meltdown at the science fair, Java comes through to embarrass the evil twins and make this the most exciting third-grade science fair ever. His cyborg secret is safe for the moment, but the Silverstones vow revenge, and it looks like there are more science fiction-ish shenanigans ahead in the Project Droid series to keep beginning chapter readers coming back for more android adventures. Mike Moran provides black-and-white comic cartoons that add action and visual humor to most of the pages in these easy-reading stories with short chapters, large print, and fast-developing plots that will entice even reluctant readers.

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