Friday, May 25, 2012

Summer Camp Science Mysteries: In search of the fog zombie, a mystery about matter by Lynda Beauregard, illustrated by Der-Shing Helmer

Full disclosure: I won Summer Camp Science Mysteries on Lerner's Free Book Friday. But I had already decided to review the first volume and buy it for the library before I won them. Just so you know.

Angie and Alex Rayez have second thoughts about Camp Dakota when they see how creepy it looks in the fog. They soon find out there's even more to worry about - when Braelin Walker tells them about the fog zombie. His older brother, Rashawn, doesn't believe it and neither does camp counselor Kyle, but Angie and Alex are soon investigating along with their new friends.

After some chills and thrills, they discover the real fog zombie - and some interesting science. The book is full of science factoids and various characters stop what they're doing to lecture on matter or show an experiment and the mystery itself is solved through logic and science clues.

The plot outside the science is a little thin, mostly because of the number of characters. Kyle Reed and Loraine Sanders are apparently camp counselors - at one point one of the kids says Loraine is "another counselor" but no other adults are in evidence and Kyle punishes Loraine for her part in the mystery at the end. We never find out why Jordan Collins is so blah about everything, although that could just be his personality. I thought it was interesting that while four of the six children were non-white races and had dark skin, both of the counselors were white.

There are additional science experiments at the back as well as "mysterious words" i.e. a glossary, a list of the scientific facts about matter included in the book and a note on the author and illustrators. The illustrations are crisp and clear and reminded me a lot of Raina Telgemeier's style - big, expressive eyes and faces and well-drawn settings. The text was an easy to read type and big enough for an intermediate reader.

Verdict: While the book leans a bit heavily on the fact-dumping for my personal taste, this is exactly what a lot of kids who like science mysteries will adore. Just enough plot and character to carry the science along with cool experiments and some funny moments. The art is also attractive and the text readable. However, at only 50 pages it's hard to justify this in a budget the size of mine and I don't think this is really worth the $25 price tag, BUT Lerner's paperbacks are pretty sturdy so I'd recommend purchasing the paperbacks.

ISBN: 9780761385448; Published January 2012 by Lerner Graphic Universe; Borrowed from the library

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