Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Simon Bloom Plays With Newton's Laws

Micheal Reisman's Simon Bloom the Gravity Keeper is science fiction with an emphasis on the SCIENCE! The realms of knowledge, geology, biology, physics, history, etc. are controlled by a panel of keepers. Each possesses a book entitled Teacher's Edition of which they are the keeper. The members of each realm are able to bend the rules of their particular area to suit their needs and control things on Earth. The council of physics meets in a mysteriously hidden wooded area near Simon's house. When Simon stumbles onto their meeting area, the Physics Teacher's Edition falls out of the sky and hits him in the head and the adventure begins.

Simon begins to experiment with bending the Newton's Laws of Gravity and finds himself floating and bouncing around his room. He eventually gets it under control, and begins to enjoy the experience. His best friend Owen is afraid of everything, including the tacos in the school lunch room and wants no part of the fun. The third person in the story is Alysha, a friend of Simon's from kindergarten who has become very popular, hanging with the beautiful people, even if she doesn't really like them. Alysha becomes curious about a change in Simon, and follows him into the mysterious woods and catches him experimenting. Simon shares his talents of bending the laws of gravity with Owen and Alysha, and the three become sort of a group of pre-teen super heroes fighting crime by changing the laws of physics, in particular, friction, and velocity.

This is where I'm not sure about the level of this book. The adventure of good versus evil is the stuff of comic books, good guys (and gals) fighting villains using their super powers is easy to follow and understand. Reisman does a good job of explaining the physics of what is going on, but I'm afraid many readers will be lost with the very scientific explanations. Toward the end of the story when Simon messes with the time and space continuum...WHOA... the explanation lost me completely! Very deep!

I liked the characters and the idea behind the book. The story is told by a narrator that seems to be an outsider but ends up getting involved. The chapters where the kids meet him are very entertaining, and I loved the scene created in his apartment where he watches the story unfold. Simon's friend Owen has some very funny lines, and the relationship between Alysha, the popular girl, and the two outcasts is well written and believable. As I said, the whole book has a comic book feel to it and I couldn't help but think it would have made a great graphic novel. I was not surprised to see that it has been picked up by Universal to be turned into a movie. I predict that kids will love it for the action.

As for me, I'm struggling with who to recommend this one for. They will need to be pretty high level thinkers with an appreciation for science fiction that is heavy on the science. Readers who do not enjoy science, should be ready to scan over the explanation parts. The book might make a good read aloud for classes studying Newton's Laws which is an intriguing thought since there are not many read alouds that will tie into the science curriculum.

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