MMGM: SCIENCE FAIR

MMGMI love that my library lets me check out ebooks on my Kindle. Browsing through the available titles has led me to several books I might not have read otherwise. Today I bring you another library find–SCIENCE FAIR by Dave Barry and Ridley Pearson. Here’s the description:

When Grdankl the Strong, president of the small, but extremely unhappy country of Krpshtskan, declares war on the United States, no one is safe. Its agents are en route to Hubble Middle School where an operative has been working for several years to create award-winning science-fair projects for underachieving children and their overinvolved parents. This is the year that the top projects will be designed to work in concert to bring down the United States in one enormous, electromagnetic pulse strike. All that is standing in the way of this diabolical plan are three students, a science store operator, a handful of bumbling FBI agents, and a giant Weinermobile. Barry and Ridley have created a wild story of danger, espionage, stinky cheese, exploding vats of Coca-Cola, and one floating frog. This nonstop, action-packed novel will appeal to every kid who has ever had to do a science-fair project.

1. The Star Wars – Most middle grade books that mention Star Wars talk about it like it’s the greatest movie franchise ever. Not so here. Toby’s parents are the biggest Star Wars geeks ever, and that ends up causing some serious problems with a Darth Vader wannabe who wants their collection of Star Wars memorabilia. Toby’s first encounter with “Darth” made me laugh out loud:

“‘You owe me a refund,’ said Darth, in a voice that Toby realized, with horror, actually sounded like Vader’s–dark and creepy. Toby took another glance and saw that the guy had some kind of black box, with a knob and switches, strapped to his mouth.”

And that’s just the beginning of the Star Wars references. It’s weaved throughout the story and even included in the climax. It’s done in such a way that the character is disgusted but you know the authors are total Star Wars geeks.

2. The science guy – Sternabite is one of the more interesting characters I’ve encountered in an MG book. Basically, he does things through science that people think are impossible, and he has no intention of sharing his inventions with the rest of the world. He’s this shadowy character who is introduced early on and reappears at the oddest times. I couldn’t find a passage that really explained why I liked him so much, so you should just read the whole book.

3. The no-one-believes-me problem – In a lot of MG books the main character tries to avoid the authorities. SCIENCE FAIR turns that on its ear, with Toby going to the principal right away about the kids who are cheating. Toby tries to do the right thing, but no one believes him, and he keeps getting into even more trouble. It reminded me of HARRY POTTER AND THE ORDER OF THE PHOENIX, where I just wanted to shake the people in charge and shout, “Come on!” Of course, Toby doesn’t tell his parents the truth about his dealings with Darth, and that could have saved his family a lot of trouble, but then we wouldn’t have a pretty amazing scene with his parents toward the end.

4. The dialogue – There are several conversations in this book that just made me laugh out loud. There’s one with his parents where they’re totally talking at cross-purposes, and yet it’s exactly how I’d expect the conversation to go. The scenes with the Krpshtskans are also funny, with the leaders acting like they don’t hear what others say and taking credit for the ideas. Here’s a taste of the scene with his parents.

“‘I got suspended from school,’ said Toby.

‘What?’ said both of his parents.

‘It’s a mistake,’ said Toby. ‘I didn’t do it.’

‘Didn’t do what?’ said his dad.

‘Put the stuff in my locker.’

‘Stuff in your locker?’ said his dad.

‘Drugs?’ said his mom. ‘Are you doing drugs?!’

‘I’m not…’

‘It’s those video games he plays,’ said his father. ‘That’s where this started.’

‘But it isn’t…’

‘What kind of drugs was it?’ said his mom. ‘Was it pot? Ohmigod, was it crack?’

‘Crack? Mom, no!’ said Toby.

‘So it was pot,’ she said.

‘I didn’t mean that!’ said Toby.”

The conversation goes on for another page until he finally gets through to them that there aren’t any drugs involved at all.

5. The humor – So it’s more than the dialogue that made me laugh. The situations these characters get into … well, I don’t want to give them away and spoil the fun. I was reading this while my husband watched the VP debate and kept breaking up the seriousness with my laughter. I think you get a taste of it from the description above.

So who else has read this one? What was your favorite part?

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About Michelle I. Mason

I'm a full-time writer, focusing mainly on middle grade and young adult fiction with some freelance PR writing and editing on the side. I'm also a wife, mom, Christian, violinist, avid reader and St. Louis Cardinals fan. And I watch way too much TV.
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8 Responses to MMGM: SCIENCE FAIR

  1. Ms. Yingling says:

    It’s been a while, but I liked how he worked in the setting-the-roller-skating-Barbie-doll-on-fire with hairspray bit that had appeared in his column. I’ll have to fling this book at a student today!

  2. Joanne Fritz says:

    Michelle, I love that you were reading this during the VP debate! Ha! MG books are way more important than politics. The duo of Dave Barry and Ridley Pearson are the geniuses behind Peter and the Starcatchers (I’ve read the first two in the series) and I had the pleasure of meeting both authors at the bookstore. They really are hilarious in person. So I can imagine that this would be hysterical. Love the dialogue.

    • I did see they’d written another series together. I’ll have to check that out at some point. I admire good humor. It’s not my strong point. I can do a funny line or two, but I can’t do what these guys do.

  3. oh! i haven’t read this, but now i’ll have to. loooooved the dialogue. very authentic – what so many manuscripts i read at critique sessions are lacking!

    • Yes, I’ve noticed dialogue is often a big issue in things I read. I like the way it’s balanced between three people and yet it’s clear who’s talking without too many tags. And since they’re mostly “said” tags, you can skim over the ones that are there. Very well done.

  4. I haven’t read this one- but love that there is a lot of humor. The dialogue sounds funny. I will have to check this out- as many of my students may enjoy it, too. Great review!

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