The Secret Science Alliance and the Copycat Crook by Eleanor Davis
Posted by: Cindy Dobrez and Lynn Rutan
Cindy: This might be the most fun graphic novel I’ve ever read and a good one to share with teachers who are still not sure about the format’s place in school. Julian Calendar is a nerd. When his family moves to a new school he sets out to have a fresh chance at popularity by hiding his smarts and pretending to like sports. It doesn’t work. He’s still friendless and miserable. After giving a fabulous answer to a teacher’s question about propellers, he finds a coded note in his locker. He identifies it as a polyalphabetic cipher (rules for the cipher included) that leads him to a meeting with two unlikely but like-minded student inventors: Bad girl Greta and Jock Ben. They quiz Julian to make sure he is as smart as they believe and then take him to their secret underground science lab lair. The intricately detailed double page spread of this hideout alone is worth the price of the book (see the image below, courtesy of Davis’s website but you need to pour over it in the book to really appreciate it). The Secret Science Alliance is born and they pump out invention after invention until their notebook is stolen and their inventions start appearing under someone else’s name.
All of the illustrations are magical and each page features a layout to fit the action. Readers young and old will pour over them to catch all the subtle puns and humor. The story is good and the not-so-subtle message about the importance of ethically honoring intellectual property is delivered in a fun way but most readers won’t peel their eyes away from the amazing artwork long enough to talk to you about it.
Lynn: Thank you Eleanor Davis for giving science nerds everywhere a major coolness factor! Budding inventors will bring their notebooks out into the open with well-deserved pride after kids read this. You don’t have to be a science nerd to love this book though. Davis provides lots of fun for everyone. There is action, humor, intrigue, and fun characters aplenty all delivered in the most enticingly intricate illustrations I’ve seen in a long time. This is not a book to hurry through and that is impossible anyway. Each page is utterly absorbing. The inventions are terrific too – who could possibly resist a Hover-Hook or a Distract-a-Dad? Davis does some nice things with often stereotyped characters too. Here is a jock who’s smart but has confidence problems and a nerd who really is an ultra-nerd – and a practical joker. Greta – the bad girl skater – is the aerodynamics expert. I’m hooked and I think kids will be too. Here’s hoping there will be many more adventures of the S.S.A.