Eleven-year-old Julian Calendar, a brilliant but ultra-nerdy inventor, is moving, and when he starts his new school, he is determined to re-invent himself, to make some friends, to fit in for once. When he introduces himself to the class, saying, "Like many of you, I enjoy popular activities such as 'hanging out' at the local shopping mall and watching sports on TV, so I know we're going to be great friends!" it becomes clear that his plan isn't going to go very well.
Sure enough, it's the same old thing for Julian - but with one very important exception: there are two other students, notorious troublemaker Greta and talented sports star Ben, who turn out to be brainy inventors, too (although neither can compete with Julian in the nerd department), and they invite Julian to join them at their secret underground cool-gadget-filled science lab hideout. The three make a great team, although they have very different interests. When someone steals their blueprint notebook and starts cashing in on all their hard work, the three friends must pool their resources and work together to get their notebook back - not to mention foil a dastardly plot at the same time.
This is such a fun graphic novel! As a gadget lover, I found all the creative and often funny gizmos very appealing, as well as the book's celebration of intelligence, imaginative problem-solving skills and teamwork. The plot itself is fairly predictable, and the characters are mainly stock types - but the story is fun and exciting, and I loved the all-inclusive nature of the school as it is portrayed in the artwork, full of kids from many different ethnic backgrounds. I particularly enjoyed Greta's relationship with her father, a museum director who is obsessed with ancient Mesopotamia.
The artwork is colorful and detailed, giving readers so many things to look at on each page that the book practically begs to be reread over and over again. Kids who have enjoyed pouring over the layout of books like the Magic School Bus series will appreciate the complex illustrations that offer tons of information through arrows and circles, labels and lists. Funny, smart, exciting, and very entertaining - this is an excellent summer read, and I for one will be very much looking forward to the next installment in adventures of the Secret Science Alliance.
The Secret Science Alliance and the Copycat Crook by Eleanor Davis (Bloomsbury, 2009)
Source: My local public library
Also reviewed at:
A Chair, a Fireplace & a Tea Cozy: "What's not to love about three kids who are outsiders who are brought together by their love of science, invention, and fun?"
The Graphics Classroom: "This is a story about characters overcoming peer perceptions and using their strengths for good and for fun."
Puss Reboots: "There is an amazing amount of detail on many of the pages, pushing the boundary of the graphic novel. It's not a fantasy story with illustrations; it is a fully integrated dance between text and art."