Monday, August 4, 2014

Frank Einstein and the Antimatter Motor by Jon Scieszka, Brian Biggs

If I get a request for juvenile fiction novels about science, it feels like a black hole. There just isn't much out there. Here's a book that fills a much needed gap in children's literature. Add some of Scieszka humor and even a non-science lover like me can enjoy this fare. While protagonist, Frank Einstein, encapsulates a 10-year-old genius that is crazy for science, his robotic sidekicks are more like Frick and Frack (Google them if you don't know who they are), one has brains and the other brawn-except their names are Klink and Klank. Now say Frank's name out loud. Frank Einstein. Sounds like Frankenstein, right? Plus the birth of Klink and Klank happens the same way as Frankie the monster. A bolt of lightning creates a spark that animates the two robots. Techie-inventor Klink builds strong, huggie Klank as Frank enters a science contest to help his grandfather save his FixIt shop from being bought out by a wealthy family whose son is Frank's rival, T. Edison. Snap up a copy and revel in Frank's passion for science and inventions.

Scieszka cleverly applies the three laws of robots from one of Isaac Asimov's short stories in "I, Robot." Frank and T. Edison use these laws when dealing with Klink and Klank. Scieszka follows similar themes found in the Asimov's robot series such as the benefits of robots in helping humans and providing humanity. Most fiction before he wrote his series portrayed robots that generated fear in humans such as Mary Shelley's Frankenstein. Scieszka creates his own spin on Asimov's themes and original ones as well. While T. Edison doesn't fear Klink and Klank, he doesn't see the benefit of the robots. They are a means to an end which is to hurt Frank. There are many popular culture references to "I, Robot" and the three laws, from Star Trek to the Simpsons. Scieszka's addition of Captain Underpants and the Perilous Plot of Professor Poopypants by Dav Pilkey is full of kid humor. However, his creation of T. Edison's evil sidekick chimp that uses sign language is pure Scieszka.

The plot is predictable and straightforward. It is for younger readers in that aspect, but the science concepts are not dumbed-down or simple. I would not have been able to visualize the inventions without the aide of diagrams and illustrations. The fact that the book has the two separate makes a huge difference in understanding and separating science facts from the storyline. I was given an advanced copy and would like to see the final copy. I was unsure of the character Watson and had problems visualizing him in the beginning. He is best friends with Frank and the two are working on their science projects. I thought the prologue was clunky too. I didn't get it until the end when it showed up again in the storyline. I see what Scieszka was doing but not until then. Maybe that's okay.  This unique series is a must for young science lovers.

4 Smileys

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