Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Review: "Nick and Tesla's Robot Army Rampage" by "Science Bob" Pflugfelder and Steve Hockensmith

Robot Army Rampage is the second of three Nick and Tesla books, which feature two 11-year-old
children who use science, inventions, and experiments to solve mysteries.

Nick and Tesla find themselves in the middle of solving the crime of a stolen valuable comic book.  Amidst their investigation, new robots keep popping up around town in all of the local businesses.  This inspires Nick and Tesla to make some of their own robots, for which instructions are included in the book.

These inventions seem much more complicated and impractical than the instructions provided in Nick and Tesla's Secret Agent Gadget Battle, the third book of the series.  These robots are not things that could be easily assembled in a half hour with parts from around the house.  Instead, they require motors, wiring that would be difficult for a pre-teen to set up, and drilling, for example.  For the experiments in this book, plan on not only adult supervision, but also an adult completing the instructions with little help from the young reader.

The mystery has plenty of twists, turns, and clues to keep the young reader interested.  What role could a basketball made of bagels possibly play in solving crime?  Wildly creative ideas fill the pages of the novel, leaving the reader thinking that truly anything could happen next.

I enjoy the Nick and Tesla series because of its focus on growing a love for science.  We don't ever see Nick and Tesla watching tv; they're always inventing and creating their own fun, which is a great lesson.  Even their uncle, who they are staying with, is a model that it is possible to keep an imagination even when growing up.  Of course, their uncle also happens to be a stereotypical "mad scientist"-type character, but even his eccentricities are endearing and comical.

Since I mentioned that Nick and Tesla are star role models for the creative mind, it's also worth noting that their need to solve mysteries causes them to overrides good judgment in dangerous situations.  In Robot Army Rampage, the children face no consequence for making foolish decisions: "'Tez, no!' Nick called from the shadows. 'You're supposed to run away from dangerous criminals, not go toward them" (144).

This Nick and Tesla book was still a great read that I would recommend to elementary age children, though I would worry that they would be disappointed in the complexity of building a robot.  I personally preferred the story and creations of Secret Agent Gadget Battle, but this book provides some framework for understanding the setting and the characters before continuing on in the series.

FTC Disclosure: I received this book for free from Quirk Books for this review.  The opinion in this review is unbiased and reflects my honest judgment of the product.

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