- Nick and Tesla’s High-Voltage Danger Lab: A Mystery with Electromagnets, Burglar Alarms, and Other Gadgets You Can Build Yourself by “Science Bob” Pflugfelder
Eleven-year-old twins Nick and Tesla have been foisted on their uncle Newt while their parents are supposedly in Uzbekistan on a government agricultural project, but considering that the siblings love science and Uncle Newt is an inventor, that’s not a bad deal. And in fact, it leads to adventure: when Tesla’s keepsake pendant from her mother goes airborne with a bottle rocket into the yard of a spooky house in the neighborhood, the siblings and a couple of local kids wind up saving a kidnapped girl and revealing the identity of her captors. The mystery story itself is a fairly bare-bones affair, but it’s laced with humor to add dimension to the ensemble cast. The appeal of this title (first in a projected series) lies in the inclusion of homemade gadgetry the kids use in their detective activities and the instructions for readers to build their own replicas. Taking several science fair staples, such as Mentos and diet cola gas propulsion and a basic nail, wire, and battery magnet, and making them a vital part of the crime story should attract some mystery/science crossover readers, and the introduction of genuine doubt about the twins’ parents’ actual job generates enough intrigue to draw audiences back for another volume. Science teachers may be less than impressed by the lack of rigorous information on the science behind the inventions, but there’s no law that says middle-grade science must remain within the confines of a classroom lab. Doesn’t a midnight bike ride with a “semi-invisible nighttime van tracker” sound cool?