With a little help from some little friends—namely, Amelia Earhart and Sir Isaac Newton—a failing fourth-grader scores a science fair triumph.
Mom insists that Jake do well in the upcoming expo or quit baseball—so when his equally desperate wishes that someone do his project for him bring two figurines in his “Heroes of History” set to life, he thinks his problems are over. Unfortunately they’re only just beginning, as both of his tiny advisers turn out to be so wrapped up in delighted explorations of the wonders of Jake’s bedroom and the world beyond that he spends most of his time and energy just trying (with mixed success) to keep them secret. In the meantime, though, their courage, curiosity, and enthusiasm for tinkering turn out to be so infectious that when they do present Jake with a small working airplane and notes on the principles of flight, he decides that it would be better to do his own work—and does. Along with digestible bits of history and Newtonian physics, Bryant infuses the tale with comical incidents while showing that Jake’s gloomy conviction that he’s “too dumb” to succeed is demonstrably wrong. Jake is depicted on the cover as white (along with Earhart and Newton); the cast otherwise seems to adhere to a white default.
Intriguing premise + themes with wings + a light hand on the rudder = a flying start. (Fantasy. 8-10)