A lightweight cooperation lesson wrapped in slime.


From the Kate the Chemist series , Vol. 2

Kate and friends learn chemistry and friendship through fun, gross science.

Ten-year-old Kate is superexcited about the Fall Science Challenge. The winners will demonstrate a Vomiting Pumpkin stunt! But in her team’s haste to make the best Ghost (vapor from water and dry ice) and Moon Rocks (lemon juice on colored baking soda), they fight with another team, which leads to a minor injury. Kate and her teammates, Birdie and Phoenix, don’t get a detention but a lesson in cooperation. The two squabbling teams are assigned to pretest an escape room. As a consequence for fighting in school while using potentially dangerous substances, it’s an unusual choice, but it certainly leads to a clever, multichapter puzzle. While this escape room wouldn’t be the best choice for an actual classroom—to solve it, the students rely on outside knowledge from the YouTube videos of author avatar Dr. Caroline and use a steamer while unsupervised—it’s a whiz of an adventure when it’s safely fiction. Accurately representing escape rooms, the puzzles are not solvable by readers, who don’t have access to the physical artifacts. The excitement of brainstorming under a time limit, however, comes through. Clip-art–style illustrations are scattered throughout the short chapters, and one experiment, requiring some special equipment, is provided in detail. Kate and Phoenix are White; Birdie is South Asian.

A lightweight cooperation lesson wrapped in slime. (Fiction. 8-10)

Pub Date: Sept. 29, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-593-11658-6

Page Count: 144

Publisher: Philomel

Review Posted Online: June 30, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2020

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Adequate from an informational standpoint: for hands-on engineering, a disappointing demonstration that less is less.


A brief but lucid introduction to aerodynamics, kitted up with materials for five ultralightweight flying models.

Supported by clearly labeled diagrams and cartoon portraits of typical and historical aircraft, the explanations of thrust, lift, roll, yaw, pitch and other considerations that must be taken into account when designing even the simplest fliers and gliders will give young aeronauts a good grounding in the basics. Step-by-step directions for assembling the provided models—two hand-launched gliders and three craft driven by rubber-band–powered propellers—are incorporated. Arnold goes on to a discussion of indoor vs. outdoor flights that includes a safety checklist and also suggests some experimental modifications to try out. The booklet closes with a blank “logbook” for recording the results of said experiments, followed by a pair of patterned sheets to cut out and fold into paper planes. This is all bound up with a deceptively large box in which punch-out forms on insubstantial sheets of neoprene and balsa, plus two plastic propellers and some wire, rattle around. Not only is five a paltry number next to, say, the 35 fliers for which Bobby Mercer supplies instructions (if not materials) in his Flying Machine Book (2012), but the paucity of propellers means that the models cannot all be assembled at the same time. Moreover, the balsa is unpainted, and the other pieces are colored on only one side for that extra-cheap look.

Adequate from an informational standpoint: for hands-on engineering, a disappointing demonstration that less is less. (Informational novelty/kit. 8-10)

Pub Date: Aug. 1, 2014

ISBN: 978-0-7636-7107-5

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Candlewick

Review Posted Online: Oct. 15, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2014

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Rockliff and Bruno’s playful approach buoys solid science and history.



Ben Franklin’s several years in France during the American Revolution included an occasion on which he consulted on a scientific matter for the French king.

Louis XVI commissioned a study when he became concerned about the number of complaints he was hearing from French doctors about a German—Dr. Franz Mesmer—who seemed to wield a powerful, mysterious method of healing. Among the scientists and doctors asked to report was the American emissary Benjamin Franklin. In Rockliff’s account, Franklin observes Mesmer’s colleague, Charles D’Eslon, at work, then tinkers with Mesmer’s “animal magnetism” technique by blindfolding and misdirecting D’Eslon’s subjects. Franklin’s hypothesis—that results were accounted for by the subject’s imagination and not an external force—is quickly proved. Text displayed in ribbons, a couple of late-18th-century typefaces and other flourishes create a sense of time and place. The endpapers are brightly hypnotic. Bruno’s digitally colored pencil art lightly evokes period caricature and gently pokes fun at the ornate clothing and hair of French nobility. The tale is nicely pitched to emphasize the importance of a hypothesis, testing and verification, and several inset text boxes are used to explain these scientific tools. Rockliff points out that Franklin’s blind-test technique is in use today for medical treatments, and both the placebo effect and hypnosis are studied today.

Rockliff and Bruno’s playful approach buoys solid science and history. (author’s note, sources) (Nonfiction. 8-10)

Pub Date: Feb. 24, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-7636-6351-3

Page Count: 48

Publisher: Candlewick

Review Posted Online: Nov. 11, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2014

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