Thursday, March 3, 2011
The Genius Files: Mission Unstoppable
6 hours, 8 minutes.
Mission Unstoppable is book one is a new series about twins, Coke and Pepsi McDonald, and their adventures as secret members of a highly-classified program known as The Genius Files. Brilliant children from around the country have been chosen (based on their standardized test scores - a reason to do well!) to be part of a group charged with solving the problems of the world - or in this case, saving the world! With trademark Dan Gutman humor and wisecracking, the story follows Coke and Pep on a cross-country summer trip with their parents, who are unaware of the Genius Files project and the dangers the kids face. Someone is trying to kill them and they're in a race against time to reach the world's largest ball of twine and save the world! Narration is third-person with frequent asides to the reader, "Go ahead. Look it up. I'll wait."
What's not to like? There are some stereotypes here - a mysterious woman with an Eastern European accent (why must they always sound Hungarian?), incompetent sanitation workers make a cameo appearance (but Mr. McDonald may be partly to blame for their error), the "bad guy" is the health teacher (it's always health or gym, isn't it?), Mom and Dad are relatively clueless (well, in fairness, perhaps we really are!), but these are minor issues in a book that will likely find a broad audience.
What's to like? Mission Unstoppable is very current employing the Internet, texting, GPS, etc. Mrs. McDonald is the primary bread-winner in the family, making a living with her funky website, "Amazing But True," which prompts the many stops at quirky Americana sites. The story encourages map skills and geography in a fun way. The siblings may fight, but they genuinely like each other.The nonstop action, adventure, and high-tech gadgets and explosions will make this a popular choice for reluctant readers - especially boys. Reader Michael Goldstrom speaks clearly and in a very measured manner, again making this a good audio choice for reluctant readers.
The only thing I would have liked better would have been a less affluent family. It is assumed that all families have a Rand McNally Atlas at home and the McDonald twins bemoan the prospect of a cross-country trip in an RV. These are things that would not ring true to many (most?) of the children I see in the public library.
Still, a solid beginning for a new series. Dan Gutman is a perennial favorite, especially for summer reading assignments. Get them hooked on this series, and perhaps they'll keep reading all year!