Nye, Bill and Mone, Gregory. Jack and the Geniuses At the Bottom of the World
April 4th 2017 by Amulet Books
Copy provided by the publisher at ALA (Also on Edelweiss)
Jack isn't as scientifically talented at his "siblings" Matt and Ava, but he has his moments. When the kids' drone gets stuck on the balcony of a weirdly imposing building, he manages to find a way in, and the children all get to meet Hank Witherspoon, a wealthy inventor. Because all three children had been in foster care but then published a book of sappy poetry that made a lot of money, they are living on their own and even homeschooling themselves. When Witherspoon is impressed with their scientific knowledge and wants them to travel to Antarctica to see the winners of a desalination contest, they are of course allowed to go. Once there, they get to find out about a lot of ways to desalinate water, find out about the climate in Antarctica, and get involved in a mystery about one of the scientists who has disappeared. Will they be able to find her before she freezes? Who will win the contest? And will they all be able to travel to Hawaii since their social worker, Min, objects?
Strengths: This is a fairly good blend of science and adventure. I know that teachers like to have books with science in them, but they are often dry. The addition of a mystery definitely punches this one up a notch as well. It felt a little like Gibbs' Space Camp, so I'll be able to recommend it to fans of that series. I also liked the science notes at the back. This one is more middle grade than Frank Einstein.
Weaknesses: It was completely unrealistic that the children were emancipated from foster care AND home schooled themselves. I understand that dead parents lead to more adventures, but couldn't Witherspoon have somehow been made their foster father instead? Took me a long time to get past that.
What I really think: Good cover, good science, a tiny bit of name recognition, since the science teachers still trot out the (25 year old) science videos. (I wonder if these videos are still all that relevant. It's worse than my teachers showing Hemo the Magnificent (1957) to my classes in 1979.)