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How to Outsmart a Billion Robot Bees by Paul Tobin. Book Review

April 28, 2017

How to outsmart

Where Nate Bannister is concerned, weird things always happen on Friday the 13th. Not surprising given this is the day Nate indulges in creating a madcap scientific challenge which he has to solve. This time it results in the Red Death Tea Society being on the verge of unleashing a very large swarm of angry bees on the city of Polt, unless Nate joins them. But they are not the only ones wanting to recruit Nate to their ranks. Then there’s a potential spy in his school.

Once again Nate’s non-genius, but highly switched-on friend Delphine Cooper is dragged into the fray, screaming and offering more down-to-earth suggestions in this new madcap outing.

Nate and Delphine are a great paring for this outrageous adventure. Nate may be a super genius, but is somewhat lacking in diplomacy and the social graces. This is something Delphine compensates for, although she probably sometimes wishes Nate was a little less imaginative in his scientific experiments.

If you’re dealing with the outrageous inventions of Nate and encountering bad guy organisations with the monikers of League of Ostracised Fellows and the Red Death Tea Society, you just know you’re in for a ride that outdoes anything James Bond has to offer, and that Paul Tobin intends to deliver manic adventure without talking down to his readers. The book is pitched at sixth graders, but older children might also enjoy the humour and science. Taking sections of the book offers great potential for not only creative writing exercises but also interesting ways of thinking about science and its application.

The perils come thick and fast, making you wonder at what speed Tobin’s mind must perpetually work to create something providing episodes which flow into one another. I must admit I had to take a break every so often to let my brain rest and absorb the tremendous deluge of information. But that’s the fun of the relentless narrative which does not slack as far as plot is concerned.

Even if not all of it might make sense, there’s enough of the madcap story for a reader to enjoy the strange and wonderful ways in which Nate and Delphine get in and out of trouble. The science sprinkled liberally in the text and applied in the most outrageous ways, can actually be related to applications in the real-life, non-fiction world and adds another layer to the book and something for younger readers to go back to when they are older.

Katie Abey’s illustrations are minimalist, yet full of fun and as lively as the narrative, making a great addition to the story.

How to Outsmart a Billion Robot Bees was courtesy of Bloomsbury Publishing via NetGalley.

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