Sent to spend the summer with a mad-scientist uncle in California, 11-year-old twins Nick and Tesla explore a mysterious, no-longer-abandoned mansion with gadgets they invent and readers can build.
In this fast-paced adventure in which the twins inadvertently foil a kidnapping, there are further mysteries: Why is that black SUV following them, and just what are their parents doing in Uzbekistan? There’s danger lurking: a pair of Rottweiler guard dogs, a neighbor girl who stands in the window with a sign that says “Go Away,” and two men who don’t want intruders. Their uncle’s lab, with its “Keep Out” sign, is full of intriguing and useful—if possibly explosive—material. Tesla is a girl with guts and good ideas; Nick is equally clever but more cautious. The instructions for making a rocket launcher, a robo-cat, a semi-invisible nighttime van tracker, an alarm and an electromagnet are clear and the diagrams helpful. Opportunities for humor abound, especially in the character of the distracted inventor uncle, first seen covered with sticky orange slime. Art includes circuit board plans and circuit diagrams; pencil illustrations show the twins and their friends, DeMarco and Silas. A sequel, Nick and Tesla’s Robot Army Rampage, is scheduled for 2014.
A promising first offer in a series that offers plenty of appeal for middle-grade and middle school readers. (Adventure. 9-13)