Science Fair

Book review by
Carrie R. Wheadon, Common Sense Media
Science Fair Book Poster Image
Both hilarious and fast-paced -- a great vacation read.

Parents say

age 10+
Based on 1 review

Kids say

age 9+
Based on 2 reviews

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A lot or a little?

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

Positive Messages

Toby risks a lot to keep the terrorists from winning, even when no one believes him and it lands him in deeper and deeper trouble. Some of the humor comes from the depiction of a fake third-world country, but the authors make the country's traditions and government so silly, it's hard to take offense. Toby sells one of his dad's Star Wars keepsakes behind his back to buy himself a computer, but he definitely pays the price for this. Depicts parents of affluent kids as willing to do anything -- especially cheating -- and get anything -- like top-secret technology -- to help their spoiled kids win the science fair; not one of the ME (manor estates) kids is remotely nice.


Plenty of chase scenes involving middle schoolers, the FBI, and crazed Star Wars fans, both on foot and in cars. A terrorist plot involves creating widespread panic through power outages across the country, with the end goal of disabling the U.S. government.


Diet Coke, Mentos, an iPhone, the Wienermobile, Barbie, and Star Wars all play roles in the story, plus there are plenty of mentions of Starbucks and Google. Two bumbling spies get credit cards from the home shopping channel and buy up as much stuff as they can, even if they don't know what it is.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

A mention by one stressed dad that he needs a drink.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that this story involves a terrorist plot to cause widespread panic through power outages -- the motives are silly ones, however, and not revealed until close to the end. A fake third-world country is also depicted in a very silly manner -- both its government and customs. The main character, Toby, makes some bad calls -- like selling his dad's Star Wars stuff behind his back to buy a computer -- but in the end he tirelessly tries to save the country, even though no one will believe him. The affluent kids at his school are all depicted in a negative light, cheating on their science fair projects and getting their parents to acquire top-secret technology to complete them. There are plenty of chases and escapes, none too scary, and many products play prominent roles in the story like the iPhone, Diet Coke, and Mentos.

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Parent of a 11-year-old Written bynickaloaden May 10, 2010
Kid, 12 years old March 22, 2011

This amazing book blew me away!

i loved this book! ii started reading it for a read- a- thon and only reading it to get the most minutes posible so my class could wim, but as i got farther in... Continue reading
Teen, 14 years old Written byh8rPatrol December 21, 2010

What's the story?

Toby is determined to win the Hubble Middle School science fair, but he's got some much tougher competition than usual. The rich kids are getting their projects made for them like they do every year, but this time it's an international spy providing the project plans, plans that require the spoiled students' government-connected parents to unwittingly provide top-secret technology that could get the U.S. in a whole lot of trouble. As Toby begins to piece the plot together, no one seems to believe him except his two best friends and the eccentric owner of a mall science store.

Is it any good?

SCIENCE FAIR is hilarious. And unlike many books that go for humor over plot, this one ties each silly character quirk and wacky moment directly into the action that moves the story forward. The smelly cheese brought over by foreign spies is thrown at FBI agents in an escape, crazed Star Wars collectors have an appropriately goofy showdown in character with fake weapons, and a frog, a Wienermobile, and a giant Mentos all help foil a terrorist plot in some way.

There's only one minus to the fast-paced fun -- all those adults -- principals, the FBI -- that Toby tries to warn who just won't listen. The explanations that land him in more and more trouble get a little tiring. Otherwise, you can't beat this kind of story to keep all kinds of readers engaged and laughing out loud.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about Toby's decisions. Why do you think it was so hard to tell his parents that he sold their Star Wars stuff, yet he came forward when he knew there was cheating -- and worse -- going on at the science fair? What would have been easier for you? What do you think about Sternabite's decision every year to help kids cheat on the science fair? How did he make up for it? Do you think all those gadgets he created could actually work in real life?

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