A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this book.
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.
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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?
- Authors: Bill Nye, Gregory Mone
- Illustrator: Nick Iluzada
- Genre: Science
- Topics: STEM, Adventures, Brothers and Sisters, Great Boy Role Models, Great Girl Role Models, Science and Nature
- Book type: Fiction
- Publisher: Harry N. Abrams
- Publication date: April 26, 2017
- Publisher's recommended age(s): 8 - 12
- Available on: Nook, Audiobook (unabridged), Hardback, iBooks, Kindle
- Last updated: June 19, 2019
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