Sunday, May 3, 2015

Book Review: Nick and Tesla's Special Effects Spectacular by "Science Bob" Pflugfelder and Steve Hockensmith

Stars: 5 out of 5
Pros: Great story with humor and projects for later
Cons: Characters could be a little stronger, although kids won’t care
The Bottom Line:
Movie mystery
Science to find sabotage
Kids will beg for more

Can Special Effects Save a Movie from Sabotage?

I don’t know why the set up for this book surprised me.  I knew the title was Nick and Tesla's Special Effects Spectacular, and yet I wasn’t expecting them to actually be solving a mystery on a movie set.  But that’s exactly what we got.  It’s not an original starting point for a novel for sure, but the execution here is plenty of fun.

If you’ve missed this middle grade series, it features twins Nick and Tesla Holt who found their summer took a strange turn when their parents were called on a scientific mission and they were dumped with their Uncle Newt, a man they didn’t really know.  They quickly made friends with Silas and DeMarco and found themselves involved in several mysteries.  Fortunately, they have the science know how to build items to help them solve the mysteries.

Hollywood has come to Half Moon Bay as famed director Cash Ashkinos is in town to film a Metalman movie.  Even better, Nick and Tesla’s friend DeMarco’s Aunt Zoe is a producer on the film, so the friends will get to tour the set.

However, the four friends have hardly arrived on the set when they discover that someone seems set on sabotaging the movie.  Since this is Zoe’s big break, the sabotage might just destroy her career.  Can Nick and Tesla figure out who is behind the acts without getting kicked off the set?

Despite a familiar set up, the story itself is great.  There are some nice twists and a red herring or two before we reach a perfectly staged finale.  There is one clue that might go over the heads of the target audience and wasn’t completely explained, but it probably won’t bother them at all.

Likewise, the characters are not quite as developed as they could be, but that is probably the adult in me talking.  There are a couple of scenes that really do delve into Nick and Tesla that I liked.  Still, I know I didn’t care about character development in books at that age, and I doubt the target audience will care here.

As an added bonus, the book includes instructions for building the items used to help solve the mystery.  There’s a home built steady cam, zombie make up, an animatronic arm, and a wrist-mount grappler.  The items used to make these things are fairly common and the instructions seem well thought out and easy to follow, although I haven’t built any of these things myself.

There is an ongoing mystery over where Nick and Tesla’s parents really went and what has happened to them since they left.  While it is discussed some, nothing really happens on this storyline here.  However, I think we might get an update or another clue in the next book in the series.

I can’t go without mentioning the humor.  There are some jokes at the expense of Hollywood and superheroes and their fans over the course of the story.  I found all of them delightfully funny without ever being mean.

So Nick and Tesla's Special Effects Spectacular is a great addition to this fun series.  Between the book and the projects, this will provide hours of fun during the upcoming summer vacation or any time or year.

Looking for more science mysteries?  Check out the rest of the books in the Nick and Tesla series in order.

NOTE: I received an ARC of this book in exchange for my honest review.

I'm finally contributing again to Marvelous Middle Grade Monday.  Follow the link to check out the other entries.


  1. I'm very aware of this series but haven't yet read any of the titles. Your review though nudges me to take care of that deficiency soon. Thanks for featuring.

  2. This sounds like a lot of fun. Who doesn't love a mystery. Thanks for the review. I will put this on my TBR list.

    1. They are fun. I loved mysteries as a kid, and I still love them as an adult. Sounds like you are in the same boat as me.