Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Science + Detectives = Nick & Tesla's Robot Army Rampage

Premise: Nick and Tesla, twin brother and sister, solve crimes using science. When a pricey comic book is stolen, the twins build 4 different robots to support their investigation, find the thief, and save the comic book shop.

Title: Nick and Tesla's Robot Army Rampage
Authors: Bob Pflugfelder and Steve Hockensmith
Length: 224 pages
Genre: Mystery
Series or Stand Alone: Book 2 of 3, although they can be read separately
Content Appropriate For: Grades 3-6
Format: Digital ARC thanks to Quirk Books via Edelweiss
Publication Date: February 4, 2014

Three adjectives that describe this book: believable, easy-to-read, fun (bonus: nerdy) 

What a great, new middle grades series! For those who enjoy traditional mysteries ~ crime, clues, suspects, witnesses ~ this is it. For those who enjoy realistic characters you can cheer for, this is it. Unlike many other kid-detective books, Nick and Tesla's Robot Army Rampage is well-crafted, including the characters.

To support middle grade readers, the plot never wanders from the primary crime, yet the story is complex enough to include two twists and a town full of interesting characters. I also appreciated that among the 4 crime-solving friends is a girl and an African American boy. Plus, it's awesome how science was cool and fun, even for girls.

An added bonus in each of the Nick and Tesla books is that instructions are included so that kids can do the science work at home. In this edition, Nick and Tesla build 4 robots. The robots are made of mostly simple objects like coat hangers and plastic bottles, and clear illustrated directions are included. I can't wait to make some of these bots at home!

My only complaint is that the primary adult character, Uncle Newt, is a stereotypically Einstein scientist. He is also very socially awkward. I find this view of science to be very problematic, lending to kids' thinking that they cannot/should not/would not want to be scientists. Since I think this is a pretty major misstep, I've deducted an entire star. Still, I will definitely be getting this book for my classroom, and I'm looking forward to reading the other two books in this series.
4 stars


  1. That's a great point about Uncle Newt. He's a pretty flat character with only those stereotypes to describe his personality. Sounds like I will enjoy this one as much as I enjoyed book three! Let me know if you end up reviewing the other ones, too :)

    Michelle @ In Media Res

    1. Michelle,
      I heard from one of the authors via Twitter about my concerns with Uncle Newt. He acknowledged the problem with this stereotype, but said that it allowed the book to have added humor. I asked my students who've read the book about this argument and they agreed - they feel like Uncle Newt is hilarious and helped keep them reading.

      Maybe this is what happens when adults review books for children?