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Nick and Tesla's Robot Army Rampage: A Mystery with Hoverbots, Bristle Bots, and Other Robots You Can Build Yourself

Review

Nick and Tesla's Robot Army Rampage: A Mystery with Hoverbots, Bristle Bots, and Other Robots You Can Build Yourself

Nothing gets a kid’s attention quite like a title that includes robot army rampages. Such is the exact case with NICK AND TESLA’S ROBOT ARMY RAMPAGE: A Mystery with Hoverbots, Bristlebots, and other Robots You Can Build Yourself, the second installment in a children’s science fiction series by “Science Bob” Pflugfelder and Steve Hockensmith. The story follows the adventures of 11-year-old twin siblings Nick and Tesla (a clever nod to the famous scientist Nikola Telsa) who have been sent to live with their kooky scientist uncle, Newton (or Newt, as they call him) after their own scientist parents have been sent away on a mysterious mission to Uzbekistan. Though their uncle is fun-loving and lax on rules, the siblings still miss their parents terribly and listen to their voicemail every morning and evening for any message from their parents.
      When Nick, Tesla and Uncle Newt visit their favorite shop in town, The Wonder Hut, the kids discover that a new owner has taken over --- the bright and kind Dr. Sakurai. Dr. Sakurai worked at the same lab as Uncle Newt, and Uncle Newt becomes immediately enamored. There are also some other notable new faces --- replicas of the Mars rover, Curiosity and some robots ---, and a familiar one: Duncan, a man who has worked in the Wonder Hut for many years and is an expert on building everything from model trains to machines.    

A kooky book perfectly suited for middle-grade readers that encourages kids that creativity and science can blend together and lead to great adventures.

      Nick and Tesla meet up with their two friends, DeMarco --- who was involved with the adventures in the previous book NICK AND TESLA’S HIGH VOLTAGE DANGER LAB --- and Silas, the sweet but slow-at-times friend who pulls them into his family’s comic book shop crisis. It turns out that a priceless comic intended to save Silas and family’s business (and their house) has gone missing. As the four friends attempt to trap the prime suspect --- antique store owner Mr. Dobek, who turns out to have simply been hiding a signed photo of R2-D2 in an envelope --- Nick and Tesla witness someone breaking into the jewelry shop across the street. Nick, Tesla, DeMarco and Silas head to The Wonder Hut to confront their new suspect, and even more fast-paced adventure ensues.
      This is a solid children’s story sure to honestly entertain readers of all ages and both genders. It’s a kooky book perfectly suited for middle-grade readers that encourages kids that creativity and science can blend together and lead to great adventures.Though the humor can get a little cheesy and tacky at points, the majority is well-suited for kids. And for any parents that may be reading along with their children, there are sprinkles of humor aimed at adults throughout, so Mom and Dad can have a good time reading this too.
      Many of the topics and issues that arose in the novel were dealt with very well. Nick and Tesla’s reaction to being separated from their working parents is realistic and may sadly resonate with a good number of readers, but it is always handled with an undertone of hope. Tesla is also presented as a strong female character, but not to the point of being overdone. She shows that she’s on the same level as the boys, and both the boys and the girls have their moments of weakness and genius --- a great subtle way to show gender equality to younger readers. There’s hilarious commentary on nerd culture that will make a large number of people laugh, both young and old alike. The story has just enough suspense and adrenaline, and the twists are easy to follow (but not too easy!).
      There were only a couple of things I didn’t like as much about the book (besides the aforementioned cheesy humor). First, there were times where Nick, Tesla and DeMarco were a little mean to Silas just because he was the slowest of the bunch, and that might not sit well with certain readers. It doesn’t go too far, but it’s something I could not help noting. Also, there’s a cliffhanger ending about Nick, Tesla and their parents being in danger, which might be a little too dark for readers closer to early end of the age range. However, it will suck in the middle grade readers without a doubt.
      It’s hit or miss to insert any kind of how-to’s in the middle of books, especially in fiction aimed at younger readers. It can be out-of-place and abrupt, but not here. Each “how-to-build” section comes along exactly when the robot appears in the story --- a very clever strategy on the authors’ part --- so the reader will be excited to build the robot right alongside Nick and Tesla.
       All in all, NICK AND TESLA’S ROBOT ARMY RAMPAGE is a delightful book for middle grade readers, sure to intrigue with the mystery storyline and excite with the presence of science, robots and the prospect of building some of one’s own. The fact that it never beats the reader over the head with the whole “kid-geniuses-building-robots” idea is fantastic, because it will make kids who don’t particularly like science feel welcome to the story and comfortable with the how-to-builds. It might get them excited about science, even if it’s just for the duration of the book. With a good dose of appeal to a wide audience, ROBOT ARMY RAPMAGE is a great mix of story and science that can be enjoyed by everyone in the family.

Reviewed by Corinne Fox on March 11, 2014

Nick and Tesla's Robot Army Rampage: A Mystery with Hoverbots, Bristle Bots, and Other Robots You Can Build Yourself
by "Science Bob" Pflugfelder and Steve Hockensmith

  • Publication Date: February 4, 2014
  • Genres: Mystery, Science
  • Hardcover: 224 pages
  • Publisher: Quirk Books
  • ISBN-10: 1594746494
  • ISBN-13: 9781594746499