Friday, April 28, 2017

Guy Friday- Sci Fi Junior High

30363767Seegert, Scott and Martin, John. Sci-Fi Junior High
21 Feburary 2017, Jimmy Patterson
Copy provided by publisher for Young Adult Books Central
Interview with Scott Seegert and John Martin at YABC.

Kelvin is the son of two supergenius scientists, so he must be a supergenius himself, right? Well, maybe it just hasn’t kicked in yet. When his parents are transferred to new jobs on the Galactic Science Hub, Kelvin has to start all over again at Sciriustrati Fibroculareus Junior High school. Some things are the same as they are on Earth-- making new friends, dealing with new teachers, and working on school projects. Some are NOT the same-- food fights in the cafeteria, anti-gravity buttons teachers can use to keep kids in control, and classmates and staff who represent all of the interesting diversity the galaxy has to offer, whether it’s a science teacher who is a cloud of gas or a boy from a water based family who travels around in a portable aquarium! Kelvin and his new friends find themselves in a difficult position that forces them to break into his dad’s lab to complete a school project. Little do they know that they are on a collision course with an evil scientist, Erik Failenheimer. He’s bound and determined to take over the universe by getting a secret element from the planet Zorb, and his plans have gone slightly awry. He’s been trapped in the body of Kelvin’s sister’s stuffed animal, Mr. Fluffles. While this has allowed him to spy on Kelvin’s family and commandeer a giant robot, it does add a few furry wrinkles to his evil plans. Can Kelvin and his friends manage to save the universe… and get their homework in on time?

This first outside acquisition for the James Patterson “Jimmy” line of books does a good job at combining elements that kids like to find in books; plentiful illustrations, goofy science fiction, and middle school concerns that are universal. Or, should we say, intergalactic!

Seegert has clearly been inspired by Mad magazine, and some pictures are very evocative of the late, great Don Martin. There are even similar sound effects in some panels! Not only do these illustrations up the humor factor, but they also support the text in a way that helps struggling readers. Occasionally, dialogue is present with a thumbnail illustration of the character speaking instead of in paragraph form, which is particularly brilliant.

Martin and Seegert have explored space before, in their Vordak the Incomprehensible series, and they cover an interesting cross section of space innovations in Sci Fi Junior High, from synthesized food that could use some work to amazing giant robots. The technology is integrated into school and home life in interesting ways. Using an anti-gravity machine to control students is brilliant, and the description of a fire drill on a space station (go to your locker, put on your helmet, and tether yourself down before the oxygen is sucked out!) is both funny and practical. A space dog who accidentally slurps up matter replicating fluid and can then eat rubber balls and spit out replicas of things? Brilliant.

Of course, junior high is still junior high, and Kelvin struggles with his dad, who tells horrible jokes that his classmates actually like. His younger sister is annoying. A girl in his class has a crush on him, but he in turn has a crush on someone else. Even Galactic Hubs have their bullies, homework, and macaroni and cheese, so readers will enjoy seeing how daily life in space would be wildly different and yet comfortingly the same.

Sci Fi Junior High is a great choice for readers who like space adventure with a hefty dose of goofiness like Tom O’Donnell’s Space Rocks! and Mike Jung’s Geeks, Girls and Secret Identities. Series lovers will be glad to know that this is the first book, so if they’ve finished all of John Kloepfer’s Galaxy’s Most Wanted,Castle’s The Clone Chronicles and Scieszka’s Frank Einstein installments, there are more out of this world books about Kelvin and his friends in the works!

Ms. Yingling

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