From the Publisher
“An inventive format and a cast of memorable characters distinguish Grunwell’s debut novel…The story flies by, leaving the reader eager for more.” Publishers Weekly, Starred
“The book…is a fast-paced and fascinating read. It’s safe to predict tat it’ll be a winner.” School Library Journal
“Newcomer Grunwell has created a short character-based plot using a variety of formats similar to the cleverly created scenarios by Kate Klise.” Kirkus Reviews
“A fine debut from Grunwell, this novel about newly opened minds may very well prove mind-opening.” Horn Book Guide
An inventive format and a cast of memorable characters distinguish Grunwell's debut novel, set in the rife-with-drama milieu of a seventh-grade classroom. Faint echoes of John Hughes's classic teen film The Breakfast Club can be heard as a group of disparate students find themselves participating (most of them not by choice) in a supposedly elective science class, referred to as the Mad Science club. As they embark on a science fair project to prove if ESP exists, the various members-among them recent Russian immigrant Marina, deep-thinking-jock Brandon, and hardworking Claire and her brain-damaged twin Kathleen-discover plenty about how their own minds work and how they relate to other people. Grunwell's framework, of a project report with sections written by different students, gives each Mad Scientist a distinct voice, allowing readers the opportunity to deduce much more than what's on the page. Though it may take readers a few passages to see what the author is doing, they will quickly be caught up in the rhythms of the scientific method as Grunwell applies it here. The story flies by, leaving readers eager for more. Ages 10-14. (Apr.) Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
This story of six seventh-grade students at Waverly Middle School begins with students signing up or being signed up for an extracurricular club that is required but not graded. The group here is to be part of Mr. Ennis' Mad Science club. Their goal, as a group, is to study a chosen subject and prepare it for a school science fair using the scientific method. After some debate, the group members eventually decide on the subject of ESP and trying to prove whether or not it exists. Using a different student author for each section of the project report, Ms. Grunwell masterfully weaves together this interesting story from the perspectives of six unique individuals (sports nut, twin sisters who think they are complete opposites, science geek, popular girl and immigrant student) and portrays each very convincingly. Through the individual report entries, experiments, and conclusions of the students we learn about their personalities, relationships, and personal situations and how each is changed throughout the course of the project. I was convinced that I would not like this book after reading the publisher's description but I soon found it to be an entirely engrossing read. Highly recommended. 2003, Houghton Miflin Company, Ages 12 up.
Six students, forced to take the Mad Scientists Club homeroom option in seventh grade, are told by Mr. Ennis, the science teacher, that they will put together a science fair project by the end of the semester. After submission of ideas ranging from "computation of the Hubble consonant" to "are dogs smarter than cats," the students and Mr. Ennis brainstorm the existence of ESP as their project. Ben, the true scientist in the group, is horrified to be associated with such an "unscientific" project, but Marina, a recent émigré from Russia, is thrilled to have the opportunity to make new friends, never mind the topic. Other members of the group include Claire and Kathleen, twin sisters who are nothing alike; Ji Oh, Claire's best friend; and Brandon, a loner who really wanted the basketball homeroom. As these students struggle together to learn about ESP, winning $500 in the lottery in the meantime, they also learn a great deal about themselves and their real abilities. Grunwell crafts an inventive seventh-grade friendship story that will appeal to a wide range of readers. Science students will like the decided scientific method theme (with many liberties taken), and the reluctant reader will find the style appealing because of the liberal inclusion of newspaper articles, meeting minutes, and experiment charts to liven up the narrative. Another appealing aspect is that not every problem is solved cleanly and easily. Friendships are made and broken over the course of this experiment, and perhaps the most significant finding of all is Claire's discovery of how important her disabled twin sister, Kathleen, is to her. VOYA CODES: 3Q 3P M J (Readable without serious defects; Will appeal withpushing; Middle School, defined as grades 6 to 8; Junior High, defined as grades 7 to 9). 2003, Houghton Mifflin, 133p., $15. Ages 11 to 15.
Do you believe in extra-sensory perception? The six members of the Mad Science Club in Jeanne Marie Grunwell's Mind Games are not quite sure if they do, so they develop an experiment to test the existence of ESP as their required group entry in the school science fair. The members of the club are brought together, not by choice, but by unique circumstances that the reader learns of throughout the novel, which is written in the form of the completed science fair project the group collectively turns in. The group is comprised of an eclectic mix of students ranging from a star basketball player still hurting from the sudden death of his mother to a young girl who recently moved to America from Russia. Each of the characters narrates different sections of the project that explain how they win the lottery and "prove," to a certain extent, that they each possess an "extra" sense. Through their inquiry of ESP, the characters also learn the importance of understanding others and discover more about themselves in the process. The characters in the novel are seventh-graders, but the personal challenges they encounter and the realizations they make will also appeal to an older audience of readers. Although the organization of the novel may frustrate some less patient readers, Mind Games is both subtly humorous and perceptive of human nature, making it a novel I "sense" many adolescents will enjoy. 2003, Houghton Mifflin Company, 133 pp. Ages young adult. Reviewer: Emily Pauly
To quote the review of the hardcover in KLIATT, July 2003: The six students in Mr. Ennis's 7th-grade Mad Science Club decide to do an experiment on ESP, and they reveal the results through their individual science reports as well as through newspaper articles. Ben is a brilliant science geek; Marina is a recent Russian immigrant, with shaky English; Claire and Kathleen are identical twins, though Claire is a honor roll student and Kathleen, who suffered brain damage at birth and is prone to erratic behavior, is in special education; Ji is a popular Korean girl; while Brandon, still trying to cope with the recent death of his mother, would rather be playing basketball. When Ben suggests that they test their ESP skills by choosing lottery numbers (his father purchases the tickets, to make it legal), they all scoff at first, but eventually give it a try??and win $500, as well as first place at the school and the county science fairs for their experiment. As each student gives his or her report, we learn about their personalities, their families, and their interrelationships. The novel's format, complete with their experiments, is lively, and the students' write-ups are humorous and revealing. At the end, they know much more about themselves and each other??they've learned something about perception, not just ESP, and the reader will enjoy getting to know them, too. A fun read, and a great choice for middle school students. KLIATT Codes: J*Exceptional book, recommended for junior high school students. 2003, Houghton Mifflin, 144p., Ages 12 to 15.
School Library Journal
Gr 5-8-Six seventh graders find themselves working together on a science-fair project on ESP when they all sign up for an elective called "The Mad Science Club." This novel, written as short entries told in alternating voices, is a collaborative effort submitted to their teacher, complete with hypothesis, research, recorded experiments, and personal commentary. Through the students' narratives, readers learn about their families, problems, and relationships with one another. Club members include identical twins; Claire is in all honors classes, while Kathleen is in special ed. Claire explains, "The first thing I did in this world was to almost kill my sister-." Ji used to be Claire's best friend, but has moved on in middle school causing awkwardness and resentment between them. Marina is a Russian immigrant who has only been in the country one month. Brandon is dealing with his mother's death and firmly believes in ESP as his younger brother foresaw the accident that killed her. Ben, a "science geek," is wrestling with his own demons. His mother left the family, remarried, and now has a new baby. It is his idea to put the group's ESP skills to the test by purchasing a series of lottery tickets. Not only do they win $500, but they also capture first place in the county fair. The book, which includes charts, newspaper clippings, and test data, is a fast-paced and fascinating read. It's safe to predict that it'll be a winner, too.-Barbara Auerbach, New York City Public Schools Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
The six members of the Clearview Middle School Mad Science Club are inadvertently brought together during an after-school registration snafu. Claire Phelps, twin and mentally challenged sister, Kathleen, and friend Ji Eun Oh are all signed up by science teacher, Mr. Ennis, after being sent to the office for a classroom disruption. Brandon Kelly, still grieving his mother's accidental death, wants to be in basketball but is placed in Mad Science by the principal who is also his grandmother. Marina Krenina, newly arrived from Russia, with minimal English skills that prevent her from understanding the application, is assigned to the club after she copies the only interested and science-oriented participant in the group, Benjamin Lloyd. The club's charge is to prepare a science project for the school's fair in January. After much complaining and lack of interest, the group settles on the subject of ESP and whether it really exists. Newcomer Grunwell has created a short character-based plot using a variety of formats similar to the cleverly created scenarios by Kate Klise (Regarding the Fountain, 1998, etc.). Each student's unique personality and emotional situation are briefly explored through the contributing reports, data, and newspaper articles for the science project. Unlike the mystery, suspense, and humor that Klise provides, this story lacks a compelling theme to maintain an interest even as the last half neatly ties all the students and their thoughts together through their conclusive results for their winning project. A good source list of actual adult and children's publications related to the subject is included as part of the report's bibliography and will be appreciated by thosewho remain curious and attentive enough to read through the whole story. (Fiction. 11-14)