Goodreads: Nick and Tesla’s High-Voltage Danger Lab: A Mystery with Electromagnets, Burglar Alarms, and Other Gadgets You Can Build Yourself
Series: Nick and Tesla #1
When the parents of eleven-year-old twins Nick and Tesla depart unexpectedly to study soy beans across the globe, the siblings anticipate a boring summer spent with their absent-minded uncle Newt. Instead they find themselves in the house of what seems to be a mad scientist, with his entire laboratory at their disposal. It’s a good thing, too, because soon the twins are embroiled in a dangerous mystery and, without any responsible adults to take charge, they’ll need to build all sorts of gadgets to solve the crime and save themselves. Includes instructions so readers can create the same projects as Nick and Tesla.
Nick and Tesla’s High-Voltage Danger Lab combines science and literature to introduce readers to burglar alarms made from Christmas lights, tracking devices from highlighters, and more–these are not your typical experiments for children, but more high-tech activities that will require adult supervision and maybe a trip to the hardware store. Without even trying, the book has an immediate appeal for lovers of sciences or those who like to build things. The educational aspect, unfortunately, may be the book’s strongest selling point.
The plot itself focuses on the mystery of an old abandoned house and the girl the protagonists see in the window. Because some vicious “construction workers” are inhabiting the house, Nick and Tesla can only get close to it by building gadgets to distract the workers and their guard dogs. Most of the story follows them as they go back-and-forth with various devices. It would be fun to build the “cat rocket” and other objects, but it is not quite as thrilling to watch Nick and Tesla do the back and forth.
Plus, the whole premise seems kind of silly–some adult should have been concerned about why there was a scared girl writing “go away” in her window, but instead they all dismissed her as being one of the construction worker’s daughters. But construction workers, as even the characters pointed out, don’t typically live in the house they’re working on, right? The whole scenario was odd and, though I grant that in real life, people try really hard not to get involved in bad situations, it seems an odd message for a children’s book.
Of course, at the end, there’s the expected “twist”–Nick and Tesla’s parents can’t really be studying soy beans. They’re obviously working for a secret agency (though the twins haven’t gotten quite that far in their thinking yet) and subsequent books seem as if they will follow that plot thread. I’m just not sure I found this book engaging enough or the characters engaging enough to want to invest more time in the series.