Tag Archives: mad scientists

This Dark Endeavor

This Dark Endeavor: The Apprenticeship of Victor Frankenstein by Kenneth Oppel

Kenneth Oppel takes Mary Shelley’s Victor Frankenstein and looks into his adolescence for clues to the man he became. In Oppel’s telling, young Victor lives in a centuries-old fortress in Geneva with his parents, his identical twin brother, Konrad, and his beautiful cousin Elizabeth. Konrad is easy for everyone to love; Victor has a more complicated personality—competitive, brooding and rebellious. Konrad falls ill and a series of nineteenth century doctors try to cure him. In this time period, medicine and science are on a cusp, turning from alchemy and magic into sound logic and method. It is not at all clear that even the most modern doctor will cure Konrad and Victor wants to turn to the older ways and be the one to bring his brother back to health.

To do this he lies to his parents, seeks out forbidden contacts, and put himself Konrad, and Elizabeth in serious danger. Herein lies the action of the story—the perilous ventures, the near escapes, the blood and gore. But Victor is not completely in this for his love for his brother. He wants glory; he wants to be more powerful than his parents and the doctors. And most of all, he wants Elizabeth to love him and not his brother. Action does abound in this story, but the torque of psychological angst never lags behind.

Kenneth Oppel is a master craftsman of the young teen novel. He knows how to give the young reader’s mind exactly what it wants and then dole out a whole lot more: to be swept up in the thrill of adventure, to recognize oneself often, and then to be challenged to do something particularly delicious—to think deeply…

While much of Oppel’s earlier books appeal to upper elementary and middle school readers of both genders, this novel will appeal to readers of both genders from middle school on into high school. Like all of his work, this book will also be loved just as much by adults as by their kids.



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Filed under 6-8 Grade, 9-12 Grade, Adventure, boys, Enjoyable for parents, Fantastic!, girls

Franny K. Stein

Franny K. Stein, Mad Scientist Scientist, Lunch Walks Among Us

Lunch Walks Among Us

Lunch Walks Among Us

Concoction, scientist, dungeon, nuclear-powered brain amplifier, flying piranha.  These are many difficult, yet quite useful words and phrases Georgia has come to know by reading the Franny K. Stein, Mad Scientist books.  Franny is the intelligent, inventive and caring girl I hope my daughter will someday be.  However, I am hoping she waits until college to try and build a monster by sewing balogna sandwiches together.

I recommend this book for anyone with a child reluctantly moving into chapter books.  Jim Benton has managed to create a sympathetic character who faces the same challenges as many children.  In FKS #1, Lunch Walks Among Us, Franny tries to change herself in order to make friends in a new school.  At the same time, Benton brings in fantastic twists in the story, such as a lunch room garbage can accidentally fermenting a ‘Giant Monstrous Fiend’ from crab ravioli in pumpkin sauce, gum, old gym shoes, and unstable industrial waste.  Franny, of course, saves the day by being her true self, and all of her friends come to love her for who she is.  Yay.

I recommend this book for emerging readers.  There are illustrations on almost every page, and the story moves smoothly.  There are monsters and danger, but it is all quite lighthearted and silly.  I suppose if you have a really sensitive child that takes things literally, you should not give them this book.  Otherwise, enjoy.  This is great fun to read for both you and your child.

-Jessica Wheeler

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Filed under K- 2 Reluctant Reader, K-2 Grade, Series Books