Cover Image: Jack and the Geniuses

Jack and the Geniuses

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Member Reviews

In this fun middle grade novel, twelve year old Jack and his "siblings", Ava and Matt are emancipated ex-foster children who live together and are guided by a guardian.  After Jack talks his sister Ava into flying her homemade drone over a mysterious building, they become partners with an eccentric inventor, Dr. Hank Witherspoon, who takes them with him on a trip to Antarctica for a science competition.  This book has mystery, science and cool kids!  I think that middle grade readers will enjoy it very much.
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Great series start that leaves kids wanting more - I highly recommend/
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My 12 year old son and I read books together.  I am a voracious reader and am determined to instill this quality in my children.  After several books falling flat lately, we picked this one up with nervous anticipation.  On my part because I grew up with Bill Nye the Science Guy, and for my son he was just tired of trying to read boring books.  His words, not mine.  Oh but we were not disappointed!

The characters were so fun that it was easy to spark discussions on each one, and how they differed yet continued to work together.  Who was he more like, what would this character do in a hypothetical situation.  

The plot so engrossing that even my 7 year old sat with us, laughing at loud, asking questions, begging for a few more pages.  I homeschool, and love it when a book brings about this type of discussion and delight in my kids.  

Of course, then there's the fact that I, as an adult woman was able to enjoy the quirky story line and unique characters.  Not to mention the way it encouraged learning and intelligence, adventure and experimentation.  

Simply delightful for the whole family!
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At the Bottom of the World is the start in a new series co-authored by Bill Nye (yes... The Science Guy) and Gregory Mone (a talented author). What does this literary combination give us? A sometimes wacky approach to giving kids what the want (a thrilling adventure) while secretly supplying them with what they need (say, an education in science?!).

Let's get on to the plot. The 3 main kids are super independent (somehow they legally accomplished this task?!). They don't even go to school -- the work with their instructors online, and homeschool. These three siblings may be ethnically different, but are part of the same family, and work together on the same team, and that's what I enjoyed. Family is who you make into your family.

The kids go on an amazing adventure to Antarctica. All because they caught the eye of inventor extraordinaire, Henry Witherspoon. Or as the kids call him, Hank. With a few silly-sounding inventions under his belt, and the means to engineer whatever he desires, who knows where he'll take his new tagalong friends? Well, Antarctica, obviously! I found it rather refreshing to read a story that really tells you how the scientists work down there. It's a whole continent that's basically devoted to... well, the study of science. (I know, I know. I mentioned the 'science' word so many times in this review, but it's such a prevalent element in the book.) But it's definitely NOT a 'textbook' boring kinda book. It's a thrill-seeking adventure into great unknowns. It makes learning seem soooo cool.

Boys and girls alike will love this series.
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Science and mystery meet in the first book in a new series by Bill Nye, the science guy.  Jack, Ava, and Matt are 3 orphans who have been in the system for a long time but due to Ava and Matt's genius status and relationship with Jack the 3 have managed to liberate themselves from the system and are on their own.  When they become curious about a nearby skyscraper they meet and become employed by Hank Witherspoon an inventor.  Soon Hank invites them to the Antarctic to meet a fellow inventor and to help him judge a contest.  When they arrive though the other inventor is missing.  Can Jack and the geniuses find out where she went and survive at the bottom of the world.

So, this wasn't bad but it was pretty unrealistic - from them living alone to them being able to go to the Antarctic and then the risks they took while there.  Kids probably won't mind.  There were some good science bits of course with explanations at the end.
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The cast of characters in this novel, while not particularly complex, is charming. Each character has a strength and a weakness that affects the plot. The pacing is solid. The scientific explanations are, in large part, well integrated into the narration. They flow naturally as the plot progresses, not pulling us out of the moment. There are a few weaknesses. There is a fair amount of unnecessary gross-out humor. And I was a little troubled by the way the other characters, even his de facto family, undervalued Jack. He seems to accept doing all of the grunt work as a natural result of being less smart than the others, as if he has less value for anything other than manual labor. I am hopeful, though,  that his position will strengthen as the series progresses. All in all, this is a solid start to a solidly entertaining and sneakily educational series.
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We need more books like this! I cannot wait to get this book into the hands of my students.
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An exciting chapter read! A sci-fi adventure that encompases it`s readers from the very first chapter with it`s flurry of mechanical magic; the flying cameras, magic(sensory) cushion pads, life threatening bungee falls, an Xbox contolled Snowgoer and hi tech robots will all thrill the young geeks as well as adveture lovers immensely. The captivating fast-paced and action packed plot may attract many reluctant readers as well. Added to it`s sci-fi world is the setting on the south pole; so cleverly described in the eyes of our twelve-year old protagonist that the readers could almost feel the chill and the harshness of it."......., So I was glad we were going in early summer. The way I see it, if vampires really do exist, those dark Antarctic winters would be ideal for their vacation"  

The story revolves around the sci-fi adventures of three kids who live on their own under the guardianship of a child care official. The children became siblings by law as they are orphans. And our narrator Jack the youngest is more practical but considered less smarter compared to his two super brainy siblings, Ava and Matt. However their story begins with Ava`s drone "Fred" ; which was made by her from her collection of spare parts, disappearing while spying on a mysterious looking building. Later the owner of the building Hank; a prominent scientist and inventor requests them to assist him in his work. the kids join him joyfully. Later Hank invites them to join him on his tour to the South Pole, but their South Pole adventure turns into a riveting mystery as they discover that Anna, a scientist known to Hank, is missing......... Eventually the children follow clues through one mystery after the other, some scientific and some non scientific, unraveling each on the way untill they found Anna. This process draws attention to many interesting facts and finding that would enlighten the readers, which includes an interesting highlight of making fresh clean drinking water through sea water. 

The clever first person narration in Jack`s words makes the story an interesting read. The text is simple and sometimes funny; it`s continuing flow of information on new inventions and on the South Pole would open doors to a wonder world of knowledge. But essentially, the underlying mystery of the missing scientist would keep the readers turning pages. The characters are well described and powerfully alive. And the well-matured siblings are an inspiration for the young readers.  A brilliant first installment!
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I have to say, when I saw the name of a celebrity attached to this book, I was filled with anticipation and a degree of dread. This one lived up to the anticipation, and the dread turned out to be unnecessary. The characters were as well constructed as anything else in the genre and the plot was well-structured and character-driven. This is one of those series that readers will simply love. Told from the point of view of the most unscientific of three siblings living the under most unusual circumstances, this was a fairly exciting adventure story with its feet firmly planted in the realm of science. The children and their caretaker/sort-of employer go to Antarctica to meet with a scientist friend, only to find upon arrival that she has disappeared and someone at the station is probably behind her disappearance. From there, they try to uncover her whereabouts and what she was working on that might have led up to her disappearance. Along the way, plenty of scientific gadgetry is introduced and plot twists pop up as regularly as punctuation.

I think this series has real potential and I look forward to seeing what comes next. I'll add it my school library and expect that many of my fellow librarians will want to do the same, especially in this age of STEM-related fervor.
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Copy provided by the publisher at ALA (Also on Edelweiss)

Jack isn't as scientifically talented at his "siblings" Matt and Ava, but he has his moments. When the kids' drone gets stuck on the balcony of a weirdly imposing building, he manages to find a way in, and the children all get to meet Hank Witherspoon, a wealthy inventor. Because all three children had been in foster care but then published a book of sappy poetry that made a lot of money, they are living on their own and even homeschooling themselves. When Witherspoon is impressed with their scientific knowledge and wants them to travel to Antarctica to see the winners of a desalination contest, they are of course allowed to go. Once there, they get to find out about a lot of ways to desalinate water, find out about the climate in Antarctica, and get involved in a mystery about one of the scientists who has disappeared. Will they be able to find her before she freezes? Who will win the contest? And will they all be able to travel to Hawaii since their social worker, Min, objects?
Strengths: This is a fairly good blend of science and adventure. I know that teachers like to have books with science in them, but they are often dry. The addition of a mystery definitely punches this one up a notch as well. It felt a little like Gibbs' Space Camp, so I'll be able to recommend it to fans of that series. I also liked the science notes at the back. This one is more middle grade than Frank Einstein. 
Weaknesses: It was completely unrealistic that the children were emancipated from foster care AND home schooled themselves. I understand that dead parents lead to more adventures, but couldn't Witherspoon have somehow been made their foster father instead? Took me a long time to get past that. 
What I really think: Good cover, good science, a tiny bit of name recognition, since the science teachers still trot out the (25 year old) science videos. I wonder if these videos are still all that relevant. It's worse than my teachers showing Hemo the Magnificent (1957) to my classes in 1979.

This will post on my blog on 3/23/17.
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Jack, along with his genius foster siblings Matt and Ava, are just the sort of kids you'd want to be friends with in middle school. The three live in an amazing building made of and filled with inventions of Dr Hank Witherspoon, scientist, engineer, and world traveler. Matt and Ava are busy inventing and modifying, but Jack is starting to get bored doing all of the non-genius things that need done. Hank offers them the chance to come help judge a scientific competition -- in Antarctica! But Hank's friend has gone missing at the bottom of the world, and so has all of her super-secret research. In Antarctica, you can freeze to death in minutes, fall into a hole in the ice, or even be kicked off the continent by the grumpy director, so why is no one taking the disappearance seriously?
Perfect for fans of Stuart Gibbs!
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I have been a fan of Bill Nye for many, many years and was so excited to see he is writing books.  This story is a bit mysterious, a bit inventive, and a whole lot of fun. Jack and his two foster siblings, Ava and Matthew, have a great relatoinship- caring yet always willing to put one over on another.  While Jack is not a genius like Ava and Matt, he holds his own in the group even while he ocassionally feels not worthy.  Hank, their new partner/father figure is fun and quirky as well.  The trip to Antarctica is exciting; readers will surely enjoy the survival episodes. This is a great series to promote STEM.
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