Nick and Tesla's Special Effects Spectacular: A Mystery with Animatronics, Alien Makeup, Camera Gear, and Other Movie Magic You Can Make Yourself!: Nick and Tesla, Book 5

Book review by
Darienne Stewart, Common Sense Media
Nick and Tesla's Special Effects Spectacular: A Mystery with Animatronics, Alien Makeup, Camera Gear, and Other Movie Magic You Can Make Yourself!: Nick and Tesla, Book 5 Book Poster Image
Kids use science, smarts to sniff out saboteur on movie set.

Parents say

age 7+
Based on 1 review

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A lot or a little?

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

Educational Value

Backstage peek at moviemaking with lingo, explainers on visual vs. special effects, CGI, and more. Includes scientific concepts such as exothermic reactions and problem-solving skills such as using intersection removal for solving Sudoku puzzles. Packed with DIY projects (making a stunt dummy, a mechanical arm, a camera-steadying rig, and a grappling hook and using special effects makeup).

Positive Messages

Resourcefulness and knowledge are powerful tools useful for both creative projects and problem-solving practical challenges.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Confident kids with a can-do attitude looking out for each other and important adults in their lives. Adults are engaged with the kids but generally ineffective, though a few step up as allies at key points. Kids willfully disregard instructions to stay away from movie lot, but their intentions are good and they have a strong sense of ethics.


Parents are missing, and their children fear they’re in danger.


References to snack foods (Hershey's, Hot Pockets, Coke, Snapple), cars (Prius, Toyota), technology (iPod, Blu-ray, Wii), and several other brands.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Nick and Tesla's Special Effects Spectacular, like the other books in this series, has detailed instructions for tackling several projects, including making a Steadicam with PVC pipe, mixing goopy makeup with gelatin, and assembling a stunt prop. Most of the activities advise getting help from an adult, and a note at the start of the book underscores the safety message. Short chapters and plentiful illustrations add to the appeal for developing readers. The loosely woven whodunit probably will make less of an impression than the kids’ work on making a movie themselves -- don't be surprised if you find your home turned into a movie set!

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Parent of a 11-year-old Written byMary H. March 17, 2017

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What's the story?

Nick is obsessed with trying to figure out what might have happened to his scientist parents, who have vanished. His twin sister, Tesla, is worried about him and persuades him to help their friends Silas and DeMarco work on their movie. They tag along when Silas’ Aunt Zoe, a movie producer, brings them behind the scenes of a movie being filmed in town. But strange things are happening on the set, and soon the kids are on the trail of a saboteur who’s ruining the movie -- and maybe Aunt Zoe’s career.

Is it any good?

A smart take on the Scooby-Doo formula, this fifth book in the Nick and Tesla series has the twins solving a movie-set mystery. The hands-on adventure includes projects such as making a camera-steadying rig, a mechanical arm, and a stunt dummy. NICK AND TESLA'S SPECIAL EFFECTS SPECTACULAR doesn’t break new ground as a mystery, but it’s an effective strategy for engaging readers with science and innovation without being didactic.

Kids will want to pursue some of the tantalizing tips -- Sudoku fans, for example, may want to learn more about strategy, and kids with an interest in video will get lots of ideas. Though this is part of an unfolding story about the disappearance of Nick and Tesla's parents, it can easily be read as a standalone book.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about how Nick and Tesla's Special Effects Spectacular compares with other mysteries you've read. Which elements are similar? How is this one different?

  • Tesla tries to distract herself from worrying about her parents by diving into adventures. How do you cope with difficult emotions?

  • Try building one of the projects and use it to make your own movie.

Book details

Our editors recommend

For kids who love science

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