Friday, October 23, 2015

Frank Einstein and the Antimatter Motor

Frank Einstein and the Antimatter Motor
Jon Scieszka
Abrams, 2014  189 pgs
Grades 2-5

Amateur inventor and child genius, Frank Einstein, works with his best friend Watson to win the Midville Science Prize, the award being enough money to save his beloved grandfather and fellow inventor's fix-it shop. Quite by accident the boys create two real working and thinking robots named Klink and Klank, who have a fondness for puns and knock-knock jokes. The team invents an antimatter machine able to create a great amount of energy from a drop of water. Frank and Watson do not submit the robots or the machine as their entry in the contest. They chose to present entries of which they have created themselves. Watson has invented peanut-butter bubblegum and Frank a flying bike. Frank's rival, dastardly T. Edison will stop at nothing to win the big prize and is secretly spying on the team, along with his signing chimp friend, Mr. Chimp. The morning of the contest brings a terrible surprise: Klink and Klank are missing. But, there is no time to spend looking for the missing robot friends. After a hair-raising trek to the contest, the boys are disappointed to discover that T. Edison has already been awarded the prize for his antimatter machine--which he stole from them. Frank and Watson must now get their hands back on the machine and away from Edison, find their robot buddies, and save Grandpa's shop.

Scieszka, a former elementary school teacher, knows what kids like. His books are consistently funny, child friendly, irreverent, and, (surprise!) deceptively educational. Frank Einstein is like Captain Underpants gone scientific. It has a straightforward and adventurous plot with heroes and villains. The text is very funny and groan-able jokes and puns abound (even the boy's names are puns). The book itself is cleverly designed and contains a generous amount of cartoon-like illustrations in black, red, and white. Diagrams, graphs, and excerpts from Frank's notebook add to the authenticity of the story. The science agenda is very thinly veiled and the plot is merely an entertaining convenience to the learning. Science minded kids won't care. Even kids who don't like science will gobble up this book and learn something in spite of themselves. Mr. Chimp communicates in sign language and whenever he talks we see the signs. The end contains Mr. Chimp's (American Sign Language) alphabet, adding a further layer to the book. Scieszka is passionate about trying to appeal to boys and encouraging them to get them out of the video games and into the books. Boys will especially devour this one, and girls will like it too. First in a series, kids will have somewhere to go once they finish. With STEM/STEAM being such a huge emphasis right now in school curriculum (and library collections and programming) this book will find a place in all elementary classroom and public libraries.

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