At the Bottom of the World: Jack and the Geniuses, Book 1

Book review by
Darienne Stewart, Common Sense Media
At the Bottom of the World: Jack and the Geniuses, Book 1 Book Poster Image
Bill Nye's passion, humor shine in science-rich mystery.

Parents say

age 9+
Based on 1 review

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The parents' guide to what's in this book.

Educational Value

Illuminating look at how researchers live and work in Antarctica, including how they build shelters and stay safe, a sense of daily life on the U.S. base, and the unique rules that make the continent a haven for scientists. Discusses some of the geography and biology on the continent, forces affecting global climate change, concepts such as density and inertia, and the importance of making observations with all your senses. References famed explorers and 19th-century French author Jules Verne. Extra material includes explanation of real-life science that inspired features of the plot, additional information about Antarctica and how researchers live there, and a simple experiment demonstrating saltwater density.

Positive Messages

Shows how scientific observation, persistence, and courage can lead to important breakthroughs. Celebrates bold thinking, patient effort, thoughtful risk-taking, and innovation. Despite clear rivalry among scientists, there's a strong emphasis on sharing information, supporting each other, and teamwork.

Positive Role Models & Representations

The children are confident, curious, and enthusiastic about new experiences. Jack feels his siblings are much more impressive, but he admires their talents. Strong female characters, including brilliant Ava, bold Anna, and independent, helpful friends. The children's curiosity and concern for Anna's well-being spur efforts to rescue her after adults dismissed clues that she wasn't OK. Hank respects the children and gives them the freedom and resources to thrive.

Violence & Scariness

Villain pulls gun on children and adults and is willing to let others die. Some perilous situations due to the harsh terrain and conditions in Antarctica.


What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Jack and the Geniuses at the Bottom of the World is the first in a middle schooler series by Bill Nye (Bill Nye the Science Guy) and Gregory Mone about a trio of bright, resourceful kids using science and engineering to solve mysteries. A missing researcher and scientific rivalry drive the plot, which is enriched by a fascinating glimpse of life on the U.S. base in Antarctica and lots of scientific content, from discussion of desalination to demonstration of scientific investigation using all the senses. The three children live on their own with supervision from a social worker after waging a legal fight for emancipation from the foster care system. There are strong hints about difficulties with their foster families -- Jack lived with foster parents who gambled excessively and taught him to steal cars.

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Adult Written byB_fahre August 10, 2018

Accurate, well researched science, with relatable main character, and fun mystery

This book was educational, with a main character I think kids will really be able to relate to, especially children who feel like they may not measure up to sma... Continue reading

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What's the story?

AT THE BOTTOM OF THE WORLD introduces 12-year-old Jack, who's overshadowed by his foster siblings Ava, 12, an engineering genius, and Matt, 15. When wealthy inventor Hank Witherspoon recruits the kids to help with his work, Jack ends up doing housekeeping and secretarial work. It's a welcome break to join Hank on a trip to Antarctica. Hank's friend Anna, a quirky biologist, is missing from the science base, and Jake is the first to realize she isn't just off on a research trip. Jake leads Ava and Matt on a mission to figure out where Anna might have gone and why -- and to try to rescue her before an approaching storm makes the effort hopeless.

Is it any good?

Bill Nye is beloved for getting kids excited about science, and he hits a bull's-eye again with this charming middle-grade debut -- with co-author Gregory Mone -- starring three smart, curious kids. At the Bottom of the World kicks off their Jack and the Geniuses series by deftly blending realistic tech thrills with human warmth and humor. The science is woven in seamlessly, deepening but never disrupting the story. In a nod to his TV show legacy, Nye adds fascinating notes at the end on the real-world inspirations for the devices featured in the story and Antarctica and its role in scientific research.

Despite his unlikely circumstances, Jack has a realistic 12-year-old voice. He's a self-deprecating kid who likes an occasional prank, but his understanding of other people is key to the team's success. Nick Iluzada's detail and full-page illustrations, done in shades of blue, add to the fun.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about the physically demanding scientific work shown in Jack and the Geniuses at the Bottom of the World. Were you surprised by the bravery, personal sacrifices, and hard work on the part of researchers at McMurdo Station?

  • Do you think this story strikes the right balance between plot and educational material?

  • There's quite a bit of jealousy and guardedness among the scientists and engineers, but they also praise each other's work. When you're pursuing a new idea, do you feel protective of it?

Book details

Our editors recommend

For kids who love science

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