On a recent visit to Cover to Cover I was given a preview copy of Science Fair, a new novel by the authors of the Peter and the Starcatcher series Dave Barry and Ridley Pearson. I haven't read any of the Starcatcher series, but my son has read and liked all of them. Because of this, I was intrigued by this title, plus, it was my favorite price!
The story revolves around Hubble Middle School just outside of Washington, D. C. their mascot is the Fighting Orbital Observatories, and its prestigious science fair. The fair is sponsored by a millionaire alum and is the highlight of the year. The problem is that the fair is always won by one of the students from the rich neighborhood, Manor Estates.
The main character, Toby Harbinger has suspicions that the ME kids cheat. Since he and his friends are teased daily about their clothes or hair or whatever else the ME kids can come up with, Toby decides to uncover the cheating plot. In the process his group of friends get wrapped up in a plot by a small country called Kprshtskan, a poor, mountainous nations with few vowels. It seems a secret agent from Kprshtskan has a plan to use the science fair projects of the ME kids to bring down the United States by controlling the electrical grid and causing massive blackouts.
On the way their is a subplot of Toby selling his parents' rare Star Wars collectibles to a man named D. Arthur Vaderian, get it? Mr. Vaderian and large hairy friend that Toby nicknames the Wookie, chase Toby to try to get even more of the Star Wars stuff. I laughed out loud at the description of the Darth Vader character who always dresses in full costume complete with voice changer and light up light saber. Occasionally the batteries go out and he has to wait to speak until the Wookie replaces them.
I loved this book and I think better readers will too. There are some extremely funny parts, including character names and middle school conversations. There are some page turning chase scenes, including one with our heroes driving the Oscar Mayer Wienermobile to get away from the FBI, CIA, Homeland Security and any number of other police agencies.
The only two drawbacks I see to this October 2008 release is the length, 384 pages will intimidate some readers, and some of the humor may be lost on kids. All in all, it's a fun read and I'll be recommending it to my kids who are good readers when it comes out.