Monday, September 16, 2019

MMGM- Charlie Thorne and the Last Equation

It's Marvelous Middle Grade Monday at Always in the Middle and #IMWAYR day at Teach Mentor Texts and Unleashing Readers. It's also Nonfiction Monday.

Gibbs, Stuart. Charlie Thorne and the Last Equation
September 17th 2019 by Simon Schuster Books for Young Readers
ARC provided by Follett First Look

Charlie is a twelve year old intellectual prodigy who has uncaring, manipulative parents whom she has escaped by enrolling in college in Denver. Of course, she would rather be dangerously snowboarding with sorority girls than attending classes where she knows more than the professor, so it's easy for the CIA to bring her in for a mission. Well, not really easy, because she also has a finely tuned sense of her surroundings and the ability to steal and drive vehicles. Once Dante and Milana finally get Charlie on a private jet, they explain to her why they have captured her. Albert Einstein had been working on a formula for a source of energy, called Pandora's Box, years before his death. It was never reported that he found it, but new information indicated that he did, and that an evil Neo Nazi group called the Furies knows of its whereabouts. There were some clues, left by Einstein as he was dying, but no one in the CIA can figure them out. Dante is Charlie's half brother, and he knows of her skills as well as her fleecing of  a corporation that stole her idea, so uses this to blackmail her into helping. She is a big help, not only with her mental abilities, but with her surprising knowledge of how to knock bad guys unconscious. The quest for the formula takes them from Israel to the Hubble lab in California, following clues that look like formulas. There are several nefarious groups racing to get the formula, and a lot of double crossing. In the end, it looks like Charlie has been killed, but anyone who has ever read Horowitz's Alex Rider books knows that tween spies are notoriously hard to kill.
Strengths: Wow. This was one tumultuous ride! I loved the beginning, with Albert Einstein's death and the immediate descent of agents on his house, and the clues from books he owned. Including famous historical figures into more modern stories is a great way to get children interested in biographies, and Einstein was a great choice. The fact that Charlie doesn't have to worry about parents or money will appeal to young readers, and the travel to different places appealed to me! This really doesn't slow down for a minute, in the best possible way.
Weaknesses: I did not like Charlie, nor did I feel that her background prepared her to be so amazing. She was definitely bratty. Will younger readers feel this way? No. But the thing I loved about Alex Rider was that his uncle prepared him for being a spy without him knowing, and while he was reluctant, he always pitched in and did his best. I also wish Charlie had been a bit older.
What I really think: I haven't really shifted books since 2010, the year Gibbs' Belly Up came out. I'm going to have to shift things around in the G's (also due to Alan Gratz!) to accommodate all of the great books that have come out since then. I'm definitely looking forward to the next book. Perhaps it will feature another scientist?

Started keeping library statistics, and so far see an average of five classes a day plus an additional 150-200 children. Mondays seem to be a lot busier, and Fridays slower. It's been an adjustment, getting used to the seven day rotation; on Thursday morning it occurred to me that I needed a new lesson! The first one was Publication Data Information (surprising number of children don't know where to find this!), and now it's Three Sources of Digital Books. (Follett Discover, where we have 20 all access nonfiction titles, The Westerville Public Library, and The Ohio Digital Library.) I also have library card applications available for students who want them.


  1. I love that you were able to make a comparison to Alex Rider, today. I just read and blogged about Stormbreaker for the first time this week. My dad loved the Alex Rider series, my brother loved the Alex Rider series, and my 14 year old son loved the Alex Rider series. So I figured it was time to dive in. I wasn't disappointed. But I am cracking up at your "but anyone who has ever read Horowitz's Alex Rider books knows that tween spies are notoriously hard to kill" comment. TRUTH! Thanks for the review, Karen! I may have to pick up this series and see what my kiddos think of it.

  2. It's interesting that Charlie is a girl. I never did rally get into these spy novels for younger readers although I am a fan of John le Carré and other adult spy novels.

  3. I have been finding that the popularity of spy novels kind of ebbs and flows. A few years ago they were really popular and last year and this year they are a tough sell for me. This one sounds interesting with the connection to Einstein and the main character being female. Other than Ally Carter's Gallagher Girls, I don't have too many like that. Thanks for the post, it sounds interesting.
    That G section. I hear you. Alan Gratz, Gibbs, and Dan Gemeinhart and a couple more escape me right now. I had to do some weeding in the summer. Have a great week.

  4. I enjoyed harassing my kids by shelving the Alex Riders as fantasy when they claimed that it was obviously realistic fiction. They are probably too old to dive into the Charlies now.

  5. Hmmmm. I always have trouble buying into child spies. It's a leap I can't make and the books never quite work for me. Good to know about this one though. Thanks for the review.