Friday, July 23, 2010

REVIEW: The Secret Science Alliance

The Secret Science Alliance and the Copycat Crook
Davis, E.  (2009).  The Secret Science Alliance and the Copycat Crook.  New York:  Bloomsbury.

150 pages.

Appetizer: Eleven-year-old Julian is excited to transfer to a new school, hoping that instead of being seen as a nerd by the other students that he can be seen as normal.  Julian's plan doesn't quite work out as he planned and he receives an encoded note to join The Secret Science Alliance.

The three alliance members enjoy designing and tinkering with many new inventions in their secret underground lair.  But when the book that contains all of their designs is stolen, the science alliance must string into action to make certain their ideas aren't stolen and used in a theft at the museum.

So, I decided to use this book with my students for two main reasons:

1.  It was a graphic novel (and the majority of my students have no idea what that term even means, so I view it as my teacherly duty to promote their use in the classroom)
2.  This graphic novel in particular features characters who show a love for ingenuity and science.

In my experience, teachers and librarians are always on the search for more books that feature protagonists that love science and math.  (And so imagine my excitement when I found a graphic novel that did this.  It was a squeeeee! kinda moment.)

However, the jokes on me, because the majority of my undergrads didn't seem to enjoy the book (granted, this group also hated Sharon Creech's Love That Dog.  How can you hate Love That Dog?!  That book is made of love!).

When I tried to trigger discussion on the book, all of my questions were met with dead silence.  Although I always encourage my students to express their opinion no matter if it's good, bad, ugly, hot or in direct disagreement to what I'm saying, they would. not. speak.

But I kind of suspect what they're problem is.  I'd even warned them that it might be a problem.  The artwork for The Secret Science Alliance is exceptionally busy.  Take these pages for example:

Where am I supposed to be looking in these?  It can be exceptionally overwhelming.  I was rereading the book, and I repeatedly had to remind myself that I didn't need to take in every single detail (although, as the teacher, I did feel pressured to still look over everything, because you never know what students will ask.  When they speak.).

But having said that, if you think about the specific (sciency/inventor-minded) audience this book is targeting, then all of these details are perfect.  Wonderful.  Joy.

Sciencey and illustration-oriented readers will love that they can stare at one page for over twenty minutes and are still taking in the creative details of the book.

But also complicating the text is the fact that it also shows some unnecessary dialogue bubbles that are partially covered by other dialogue bubbles because the protagonists are only listening to one of several conversations going on.

I liked this touch because it reflected reality.  But at the same time, it meant I did some unnecessary reading as I figured out what I was supposed to be focusing on.  And plus, who doesn't want to hear about Mesopotamian baklava?  I mean, really?

Now, having rambled about what I used my mind-reading skills to figure out were my students issues, I want to go back to some of the strengths of the graphic novel.

I also like that it challenges stereotypes.  Don't judge my appearances.  People have different talents and skills.  A jock is great at science.  He, a new supernerd at the school and a tough girl are all friends through their love of science.

So you hear that nerd and nerdettes of the world?  Be yourselves!  You'll find friends with common interests in surprising places.

Dinner Conversation:

Julian:  "Hello!  My name is Julian Calendar!  Like many of you, I enjoy popular activities such as "hanging out" at the local shopping mall and watching sports on TV, so I know we'll all be great friends!"  I'm going to fit in for once! (p. 5).

Greta:  "We need a place to experiment and build our inventions in complete secrecy, so none of our work can be stolen by adults" (p. 37).

Julian:  Let's for a team!  We should be a team!  Of secret scientists!" (p. 42).

Tasty Rating:  !!!

No comments:

Post a Comment


Related Posts with Thumbnails