Book review: The science of fun reading with Abrams & Chronicle Books

Jon Scieszka, one of the most exciting voices in children’s literature, is on ‘genius’ form in a brilliant new science-based adventure series from Abrams & Chronicle Books.

The science of fun reading with Abrams & Chronicle Books
The science of fun reading with Abrams & Chronicle Books

Abrams & Chronicle is the European arm of acclaimed publishing houses Abrams, based in New York, and Chronicle Books, based in San Francisco, proud publishers of a stable of best-selling authors, illustrators and photographers.

And their latest sparkling line-up of children’s books includes Scieszka’s aptly named kid scientist and inventor Frank Einstein, two irrepressible schoolboy pranksters and a fantastic board book introduction to the epic Star Wars adventures.

Age 8 plus:

Frank Einstein and the Electro-Finger by Jon Scieszka and Brian Biggs

It’s easy to see why Jon Scieszka has earned a reputation as one of the most trusted and respected authorities on what boys in the eight to twelve age group love to read.

His classic books, particularly the much-loved Time Warp Trio series, have sold millions and his impressive literacy initiatives have given him an enviable expertise on tickling the funny bones of reluctant readers.

This innovative and high-energy Frank Einstein series, packed with science, adventure and comedy capers, is perfectly pitched at boys who want their learning to come with a big dollop of action and anarchy.

Brian Biggs provides the charismatic illustrations for tales full of boys’ toys like robots and mad machines, and the scene is set for some out-of-this world science.

Child genius Frank Einstein loves to tinker, build and take things apart. He loves to observe, hypothesise, experiment and invent. He loves figuring out how the world works by creating contraptions that are part science, part imagination and definitely unusual.

Here we find Frank and his best friend Watson, along with Klink, a self-assembled artificial-intelligence entity, and Klank, a mostly self-assembled artificial almost intelligence entity, in competition with T. Edison, their classmate and arch-rival.

Their quest is to unlock the power behind the science of energy and Frank is working on a revamped version of one of Nikola Tesla’s inventions, the Electro-Finger, a device that can tap into energy anywhere and allow the town of Midville to live ‘off the grid,’ with free wireless and solar energy.

But this puts Frank in direct conflict with Edison’s quest to control all the power and light in Midville, monopolise its energy resources and get ‘rich rich rich.’ Time is running out, and only Frank, Watson, Klink and Klank can stop Edison and his sentient ape, Mr Chimp.

There are diagrams to study, plots to unravel and power battles to enjoy in this scintillating science romp which throws up as many fascinating facts as it does electronic fistfuls of mayhem and madness.


(Amulet Books, paperback, £6.99)

Frank Einstein and the Animatter Motor by Jon Scieszka and Brian Biggs

And why not join Frank in his very first adventure in which his robots Klink and Klank suddenly come to life after a lightning storm and a flash of electricity. Not exactly the ideal lab partners, the wisecracking Klink and the overly expressive Klank are a help nonetheless as Frank attempts to perfect his Dark Energy Drive. But the plans go awry when Frank’s arch nemesis, T. Edison, steals Klink and Klank for his evil doomsday scheme. With the help of his friends, Frank sets out to rescue the robots and stop Edison from carrying out his twisted plans.

Proof that science can be very, very funny!

(Amulet Books, paperback, £6.99)

Age 8 plus:

The Terrible Two by Mac Barnett and Jory John

Illustrated by Kevin Cornell

Fans of a Wimpy Kid are going to fall hook, line and sinker (or should that be stinker!) for arch prankster Miles Murphy and his rival-turned-partner Niles Sparks.

Welcome to the weird and wonderful world of a dynamic deadpan comedy duo who make kids’ reading what it should be… laugh-out-loud fun.

The two terrible schoolboys are the stars of an exciting new series and the inspired creations of another tip-top comedy partnership, authors and friends Mac Barnett and Jory John, both noted for their entertaining and educational children’s books.

Here they combine their talents – aided and abetted by Kevin Cornell’s superb illustrations –on a wonderfully witty and warm-hearted adventure packed with brilliant characters, schoolboy humour and pranks so devastatingly devilish that youngsters might just want to try them out themselves.

Miles Murphy had it made. He lived in a great town near the ocean, he had two best friends and, most importantly, he had a reputation for being his town’s best prankster. All of which explains why he is not happy to be moving to Yawnee Valley, a sleepy town that is famous for one thing and one thing only… cows. Worse than that, Miles quickly discovers that Yawnee Valley already has a prankster, and a great one. If Miles is going to take the title from this mystery kid, he is going to have to raise his game.

The prankster turns out to be the class nerd and do-gooder Niles Sparks. So it’s prankster against prankster in an epic war of trickery, until the two finally decide to join forces in order to pull off the biggest prank ever seen, a prank so huge it would instil pride into members of the International Order of Disorder (a loose confederacy of pranksters that flourished a couple of centuries ago).

Daringly different and acutely observant, The Terrible Two series is as clever as it is comical. Not to be missed!

(Amulet Books, paperback, £6.99)

All ages:

Star Wars Epic Yarns: A New Hope by Jack and Holman Wang

May the force of the felt be with you!

Twin brothers Jack and Holman Wang, creators of the Cozy Classics board books, have stitched together this amazing new series which puts a whole new meaning into the Star Wars epic ‘yarns.’

Each of the sturdy little board books in this quirky series features twelve hand-crafted felt scenes, twelve words and one legendary micro-saga.

Ideal for any Star Wars fan aged between nought and ninety, the series launches with the original trilogy – A New Hope, The Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi – and every word counts in these small but seamlessly designed books.

The twelve iconic scenes in each volume, with their amazing, eye-opening detail, have been made in felt by the Wang brothers and then succinctly summarised in just a single word to give added punch to the pictures.

Perfectly formed for small hands and yet with universal appeal for all age groups, these terrific tales are a fantastic board book introduction for little ones to the epic Star Wars adventures and a delightful gift for any followers of the Force.

(Chronicle Books, board book, £5.99 each)