Monday, January 11, 2010

Get Smart: Nerds, Geeks, and Outcasts Become Heroes in New Children's Books.

As long as there have been nerds, geeks, and "smart kids" there have been stories written to give schoolyard outcasts a reason to stand up and cheer — a reason to be proud of who they are. I recently read two such books for children 6 – 10 years old.

"The Unusual Mind of Vincent Shadow"
By Tim Kehoe
Illustrated by Guy Francis and Mike Wohnoutka
For ages 7 – 10
Vincent is a unique individual. He is a middle school student with very big ideas. His ideas are not big in that he is thinking about curing diseases or visiting other planets. No, Vincent's thoughts are much more whimsical than that. He is an inventor of strange and unusual toys. Vincent has designed Rainbow Rocketz, Biting Beast Balls, Sky Writerz, Mixablez and much more in a secret lab his mother helped him build behind the closet in his room.

When his mother passes away and his father remarries Vincent begins to truly understand what it means to be an outcast, both at home and at school. We're not talking Cinderella — turn him into the house servant type mistreatment— but the family tension is central to Vincent's outcast persona and helps propel the story along.

Vincent is ready to give up on inventing but then Howard G. Whiz, a world famous toy inventor sponsors a toy inventing contest. Vincent sees the contest as his chance to become more than an outcast. Unfortunately there are many other talented inventors competing and some will stop at nothing to win the contest.

"Vincent Shadow is a fun-filled romp through creativity and teen angst. It stays light, so young readers will take to the "no boundaries" imagination and adventure inspired by "The Unusual Mind of Vincent Shadow" without being bogged down in a deeper plot.

"The Secret Science Alliance and the Copycat Crook"
By Eleanor Davis
For Ages 6 – 10
This graphic novel helps every science geek, outsider, or misunderstood student escape into the life of a super hero. Extraordinarily smart, Julian is beginning a new year of school at a new school and hopes to shed his science geek reputation. Julian hides who he is, the best that he can, until he finds himself making friends with other misunderstood outcasts — a "dumb jock" and a "maniac."

It doesn't take long for the trio to find they have more in common than their outward appearances would suggest. They form a secret society, The Secret Science Alliance, build an underground command center, and begin inventing amazing and creative gadgets. When a famous, albeit, nefarious scientist steals the Science Alliance's notebook, our three heroes must foil his dastardly plots.

"The Secret Science Alliance and the Copycat Crook" is creative and fun adventure. Like "Vincent Shadow" the deeper plots of acceptance and being proud of yourself are in the story, but kept light — allowing young readers to get the moral but concentrate on the fun.

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