Sunday, October 6, 2013

Book Review: Nick and Tesla's High-Voltage Danger Lab by "Science Bob" Pflugfelder and Steve Hockensmith (Nick and Tesla #1)

Stars: 4 out of 5
Pros: Fun story and great gadgets to build
Cons: Characters a tad weak and a bit of a slow start due to set up
The Bottom Line:
Building some gadgets
To help solve a mystery
Provides hours of fun

Mysteries, Gadgets, and a Fun Debut

I have this habit of follow authors across genres.  Okay, some genres.  While I never did give Steve Hockensmith’s zombie novels a try, I enjoyed his Holmes on the Range mysteries enough that I wanted to give his first middle grade mystery a shot.  That’s how I came to read Nick and Tesla's High-Voltage Danger Lab.  This should be a hit with the target age range.

11-year-old twins Nick and Tesla are not having the summer they’d planned.  Instead of relaxing with friends and a family trip to Disneyland, they are hustled off to their uncle’s when their parents have to rush off to Uzbekistan for some kind of soy bean irrigation breakthrough.  Ah, the life of government scientists’ kids.

They haven’t seen Uncle Newt in years.  He’s a cross between a mad scientists and an absent minded professor.  Not exactly the best guardian, but he lets them have (almost) free reign of his lab.  That’s how Nick and Tesla come to build a water powered rocket.  But on its first flight, it lands in the yard of a mysterious house.  Trying to get it back, Nick and Tesla stumble on something strange.  What is happening?  And will their gadgets help them solve the case?

I am noticing a trend in some middle grade books I read, and that is the shallow characters.  Nick, Tesla, their uncle, and a couple friends they make have personalities, but they are fairly simple.  However, as a kid I never cared about things like this, and I doubt today’s kids will either.

The other flaw is a slow start.  It was needed to set up Nick and Tesla in their new home.  There had been a couple of strange things, but I was ready for some action by the time it got started.

Fortunately, once it got started, I was hooked.  From that point, the story moved forward quickly, and I was left wondering what would happen next.  There were a couple of good action scenes along the way to the suspenseful climax.

And there is some fun humor.  I laughed out loud a few times and smile many more.  Most of the laughs came from Uncle Newt, and I liked that added layer to the book.

Speaking of layers, Nick and Tesla make several gadgets over the course of the book to help them solve the case.  We're talking everything from the previously mentioned water rocket to a dog distracter, a simple burglar alarm, a way to track vehicles, and an electromagnet.  There are instructions for each of those items in the book, so you can build them yourself after you are done reading the book.  I’d recommend adult supervision, but most of the projects are simple and will provide hours of added fun.

That’s why this book, coming in November, will be a perfect Christmas present.  Not only does the book have a fun story, but it provides some projects to entertain kids after they’ve finished.

The book is co-written with Science Bob Pflugfelder, who I’m sure provide plenty of help and ideas with the gadgets presented in the book.

The second book is already planned for a late winter release, and I’m making room on my reading calendar for it now.  Nick and Tesla's High-Voltage Danger Lab is a fun series debut that definitely leaves you wanting to know more.

Once you read this book, you'll want to read more of Nick and Tesla's Science Mysteries in order.

NOTE: I received a copy of this book via Amazon’s Vine program.

This is an entry in this week's Mavelous Middle Grade Monday.


  1. That looks fun! I've seen it around. I've seen YOU around at What's on My Nightstand, I think, but this is my first time to do MMGM

    1. Welcome to MMGM. Yes, I do What's on My Nightstand most months.

      This book was lots of fun, and I'm sure kids will really enjoy it.