Frank Einstein and the Electro-Finger: Frank Einstein, Book 2

Book review by
Darienne Stewart, Common Sense Media
Frank Einstein and the Electro-Finger: Frank Einstein, Book 2 Book Poster Image
Lots of solid science in fun, goofy sequel about energy.

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A lot or a little?

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

Educational Value

Easy-to-follow explanations of Newton's laws of motions, Nikola Tesla's work, different forms of energy, how electricity works, and more. The back of the book includes notes on energy, an illustration of the American sign language alphabet, and even an Emily Dickinson poem. Several ideas for simple energy experiments kids can do at home.

 

Positive Messages

The scientific method can be used to solve all sorts of problems, including those outside the lab. Friends and allies can help work through tough times. Experimentation and creative thinking can lead to significant innovations, which may not always be appreciated at first. Forward progress is built on the hard work and discoveries of the past.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Frank is an innovative thinker, building on past scientific progress to envision which problems science might go to next. His friend Watson is always a few beats behind him but is never treated unkindly. Frank keeps cool under pressure. The young characters' parents are oblivious, but Frank's Grampa Al is kindly and full of surprises. The police chief is sympathetic to Frank and helpful.

 

Violence & Scariness

Villain tries to kill rivals by sending them toward a water turbine; angry, pitchfork-carrying mob pursues Frank Einstein and friends; a robot is destroyed. 

 

Language

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Frank Einstein and the Electro-Finger: Book 2 is the second book in this scientifically grounded series by Jon Scieszka (The Stinky Cheese Man and Other Fairly Stupid Tales). It's packed with scientific concepts but also draws connections to literature and history. The heroes are positive-minded, likable kids, and their nemesis and his sidekick are cartoonish villains. Strong illustrations by Brian Biggs (EllRay Jakes the Dragon Slayer) help explain the science, and extras at the back of the book help reinforce and extend the educational content.

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What's the story?

Kid genius Frank Einstein is dreaming up a way to provide free, wireless electricity to the town of Midville. Meanwhile, his nasty rival, T. Edison, is plotting to make the entire town dependent on him for energy. Edison and his sidekick, Mr. Chimp, begin to systematically destroy the town's electrical plants. Frank, his friend Watson, and robot pals Klink and Klank explore Newton's laws of motion, experiment with electricity, and build a static-electricity finger that could blow up Edison and Mr. Chimp's plans.

Is it any good?

FRANK EINSTEIN AND THE ELECTRO-FINGER: BOOK 2 is a fun way to explore energy in its many forms, including magnetic, electrical, and mechanical. Jon Scieszka lays out a simple, concise explanation of how energy works, with great help from diagrams and illustrations by Brian Biggs. The plot development is a little clunky: The science is explained well, but it bogs down the early story and may lose impatient young readers. Some plot elements -- such as friend Janegoodall and an angry mob pursuing the heroes -- come and go in disjointed fashion. 

It's an ideal fit for kids who enjoy science and are eager to linger over diagrams and explanations. As with any good teacher, Scieszka draws connections to history, literature, and some pop culture; he works in references to William Wadsworth Longfellow, Tarzan, and Diary of a Wimpy Kid. Now that the Frank Einstein series has covered matter and energy, upcoming books will take a scientific look at humans, life, Earth, and the universe.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about how science is integrated into the story. Is it easier to learn complex concepts within a story like this or in a textbook?

  • How does the crowd's reaction to Frank's electro-finger escalate? Do you think people are so quick to make assumptions when they aren't in a crowd? 

  • Try carrying out some of the simple experiments in the book involving charged particles.

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