Saturday, April 10, 2010


By Kevin Hodgson
Staff Writer

Julian Calendar is a middle school nerd, through and through, but he sees a chance to shake that image when his family moves to a new town and he starts in a new school. He is determined NOT to be an outcast due to his brains but the plan falls apart quickly. Julian is not one who can blend in with the common kid, and so begins THE SECRET SCIENCE ALLIANCE AND THE COPY CAT CROOK by Eleanor Davis. Julian soon finds two other friends who are as nerdy, in a cool way, as he is and their prowess in science and math lead them on an adventure to solve a crime. A local scientist is trying to steal something from the museum (it's a hat!) and the Science Alliance kids are on the case, with spring-loaded shoes, a homemade helicopter and super sticky glue bombs. In the end, the nerds rule the day and a love of science propels these three heroes forward, hopefully into another story in the future.

The graphic novel is colorful and fun with plenty of very detailed full-page illustrations by Davis, including the Science Alliance's underground hideout. One particular page that I found enjoyable was the one that showed all the ways in which Julian is a nerd, with arrows pointing to parts of his body. 

Click the image to enlarge.

Reading level: Ages 9-12
Format: Paperback
Pages: 160
Publisher: Bloomsbury USA Children's Books
ISBN-10: 1599903962

Click here for a preview of SECRET SCIENCE ALLIANCE.

This is a story about characters overcoming peer perceptions and using their strengths for good and for fun. Students could compare Julian and his friends to characters from other stories they have read and compare how outsiders are often used as narrative devices for novels (including graphic novels). Another interesting angle of discussion: Why are kids who are smart in science and math always viewed as outsiders who are too smart for their own good instead of being celebrated for their mental acuity?

I recommend this book and think is appropriate for elementary and middle school classrooms. The plot is not very original and fairly predictable, but the novel moves along at a nice pace. There is nothing inoffensive in here, unless being a brainiac is something that still rubs you the wrong way. The book is a fun read.

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