Phineas L. MacGuire ... Blasts Off! (From the Highly Scientific Notebooks of Phineas L. MacGuire Series #3)

Overview

Houston,we have a problem!

Phineas L. MacGuire (a.k.a. Mac) is less than up-to-date on planetary happenings. (Marsquakes? Who knew?) If he's going to be the best scientist in the fourth grade, Mac has to set his sights pretty high. To outer space, actually. But Space Camp is expensive. Where is he going to find enough money for a week on Mars (or a pretty close simulation thereof)?

Houston, we have another problem: a gigantic, slobbery dog ...

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Phineas L. MacGuire . . . Blasts Off!

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Overview

Houston,we have a problem!

Phineas L. MacGuire (a.k.a. Mac) is less than up-to-date on planetary happenings. (Marsquakes? Who knew?) If he's going to be the best scientist in the fourth grade, Mac has to set his sights pretty high. To outer space, actually. But Space Camp is expensive. Where is he going to find enough money for a week on Mars (or a pretty close simulation thereof)?

Houston, we have another problem: a gigantic, slobbery dog named Lemon Drop. Mac can earn the money he needs by walking Mrs. McClosky's yellow Lab, but first he needs to survive the walks and the slobber! Good thing Mac is a scientific genius with friends like Ben and Aretha. Together the three of them discover that Lemon Drop is no ordinary dog — that Lab is a real-life Lab-oratory.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"[P]roves that kids can be smart and funny." — Publishers Weekly

"Mac [is] one of the most charmingly engaging new characters in the modern chapter-book scene." — Kirkus Reviews

"Full of amusing faux-scientific observations as well as actual scientific facts, this lighthearted...book should appeal to any young reader who can stand a little mold." — Booklist

"This is a funny, easy read that will entertain both average and reluctant readers. The characters are thoughtful, genuine kids who are creative in their problem solving and truly understand the meaning of friendship." — School Library Journal

Children's Literature - Anita Barnes Lowen
Meet Phineas L. MacGuire, probably the best fourth-grade scientist in all of Woodbrook Elementary School. He is an expert in all molds and fungi, and he is the slime mold genius of the universe. He is an expert on volcanoes and other things that explode, as well as bug identification. He is a potential scientific genius in astronomy—if he can earn enough money to pay for Space Camp registration and a round-trip plane ticket. But how can a nine-year-old come up with $799 (that's just for the week at camp) in five months? What he needs is a job—any job! Serendipitously, his approximately eight-thousand-year-old neighbor must hire someone to walk her dog, an oversized slobbery yellow Labrador retriever named Lemon Drop. Dog slobber? Ewwwwwww.... But, naturally, Phineas's scientific curiosity kicks in. He wonders why dogs slobber so much, "what's up with their saliva glands?" Finding the answer leads to the most unusual (and, yes, a bit gross) science fair project that three friends have ever collaborated on. This third book from "The Highly Scientific Notebooks of Phineas L. MacGuire" series is a delight. Many black-and-white illustrations, large print and an engaging story make the book an excellent choice for reluctant readers. Reviewer: Anita Barnes Lowen
School Library Journal

Gr 2-4

Phineas (Big Mac) MacGuire is interested in all things science-volcanoes, slime molds, bugs-but his current focus is space, and he wants more than anything to attend Space Camp. While his parents balk at the price, his mom agrees that he can go if he can win a scholarship, or earn the money himself. There aren't many well-paid jobs for fourth graders, but Mac signs up as a dog walker for Lemon Drop, the slobberiest Labrador retriever in existence. After observing the pup's "output," Mac and his friends Ben and Aretha decide to film a documentary on the properties of dog slobber, recording the quality and quantity produced by various breeds. Mac plans to make valuable scientific spit discoveries, Ben intends to become a famous film director, and, of course, they all hope to make big money selling the finished product. Mac's third adventure is a refreshingly upbeat story, with a strong emphasis on cooperation. Mac and his friends are a cohesive team, relying on each other's skills and talents to make their project a success. Adults, while mostly peripheral to the action, are also shown in a positive light. The dialogue is light and humorous, particularly Mac's first-person comments on dogs, parents, science, and life in general. There is a high "e-e-e-e-w-w-w!" factor to the detailed descriptions of the slobber project, which may make adults with weak stomachs cringe, but kids will find the whole thing delightfully disgusting.-Elaine E. Knight, Lincoln Elementary Schools, IL

Kirkus Reviews
Hoping to earn enough money for a week at Space Camp in Alabama, fourth-grader Phineas MacGuire takes a job as a dog walker-a ready-made opportunity for a budding scientist. With his friends Ben and Aretha, he collects dog saliva to measure and compare with that of other dogs and, eventually, humans as well. In this third episode of The Highly Scientific Notebooks of Phineas L. MacGuire, Dowell follows her previous pattern, making good use of the humorous possibilities of licking, slobbering dogs, but also including a pair of experiments that relate to current Mars exploration and Mac's new interest in space. (Instructions are included at the end.) Supportive parents, neighbors and school personnel encourage this engaging and resourceful protagonist. The first-person narrative moves along briskly, and the large, legible type and McDaniels's numerous black-and-white illustrations add to the appeal for hesitant readers. Although there are references to his previous experiments with volcanoes and slime mold, this easily stands on its own and should attract new fans for the series. (Fiction. 8-11)
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Product Details

Meet the Author

Frances O’Roark Dowell is the bestselling and critically acclaimed author of Dovey Coe, which won the Edgar Award and the William Allen White Award; Where I’d Like to Be; the bestselling The Secret Language of Girls and its sequels The Kind of Friends We Used to Be and The Sound of Your Voice, Only Really Far Away; Chicken Boy; Shooting the Moon, which was awarded the Christopher Medal; the Phineas L. MacGuire series; Falling In; the critically acclaimed The Second Life of Abigail Walker; Anybody Shining; and the teen novel Ten Miles Past Normal. She lives with her husband and two sons in Durham, North Carolina. Connect with Frances online at FrancesDowell.com.

Preston McDaniels is the illustrator of Phineas L. MacGuire...
Erupts!
and Cynthia Rylant's Lighthouse Family series. He lives in
Aurora, Nebraska.

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Read an Excerpt

chapter one

My name is Phineas Listerman MacGuire.

Feel free to call me Mac.

Some people even call me Big Mac, since I'm tall for my age.

I don't mind being called Phin or Phineas. I had a soccer coach last year who only called me MacGuire.

I thought that was sort of cool.

He never called me Listerman, in case you were wondering.

No one calls me Listerman. Not unless they want to get seriously slimed.

I am a scientist. In fact, I am probably the best fourth-grade scientist in all of Woodbrook Elementary School. I am an expert in the following areas of scientific inquiry:

1. All molds and fungi, particularly slime molds of every variety

2. Volcanoes and other things that explode

3. Bug identification

Up until yesterday I had no idea that I was a potential scientific genius when it came to astronomy, which is, if you didn't know, the study of planets and stars and everything up in space.

Don't get me wrong. I have read at least sixty-seven astronomy books and am famous for having eaten a board book about the planets when I was two.

It's just astronomy wasn't one of my big things.

Until I heard about Space Camp.

It all started with Stacey Windham, and Share and Stare.

You would think that as a scientist, I would know five hundred times as much about space as Stacey Windham, a bossy girl in my class who thinks she is the queen and has never once shown any interest in anything besides being mean to people.

So how did she know that there are earthquakes on Mars before I did?

Except on Mars they're called Marsquakes.

You'd think I would have heard about that.

"Some scientists think that Mars at one time had titanic plates in it, just like Earth does," Stacey reported for Share and Stare yesterday morning. Share and Stare is what Mrs. Tuttle, our teacher, has instead of Show and Tell. For Share and Stare you have to bring something that's connected to what we're studying at school. We have just started a unit on space, and Stacey waved an article torn out of a magazine while she talked.

"I'm interested in titanic plates because I have seen the movie Titanic four times," Stacey continued. "Even though it is rated PG-13."

A bunch of girls gasped. I raised my hand. Stacey nodded at me like she was the teacher.

"I think you mean 'tectonic plates,'" I informed her. "Tectonic plates are what shift around and cause earthquakes."

"Well, I've still seen Titanic four times. And it's rated PG-13." Stacey sneered at me. "I bet you've never seen one single PG-13 movie."

Half of my classmates waved their hands in the air. "Oooh! I have! I have!"

Later I asked Stacey where she'd found the article, and she showed me a copy of a magazine called Astronomy. "It's my dad's," she said. "He has a telescope. Except he's always too busy to use it. Sometimes when I have a slumber party, we use it for spying on the people who live across the street."

I sighed. Leave it to Stacey Windham to take a perfectly good scientific tool like a telescope and use it for evil.

Tonight at dinner I asked my mom if we could get a subscription to Astronomy magazine. She gave me her best I Spend Ten Zillion Dollars a Year on Stuff for You Already look and shook her head. "You get plenty of magazines." She listed them on her fingers: "National Geographic Kids, Scientific American, Ranger Rick..."

"To be honest, I think I'm getting kind of old for Ranger Rick. Maybe we could trade that subscription for one to Astronomy."

"Too old for Ranger Rick?" My mom looked stunned. "I read Ranger Rick until I was twelve years old. You're never too old for Ranger Rick!"

My stepdad, Lyle, grabbed another piece of pizza from the box on the middle of the table. "You know, I saw something in the paper the other day about a Space Camp they have down in Alabama. I think it's connected to NASA. The kids do a lot of stuff on Mars exploration."

I nearly jumped out of my chair. It was like every cell in my body got electrified at the same time. All of the sudden I knew that my life should revolve around the study of astronomy, space, and all things beyond Earth's atmosphere. "Space Camp? Mars exploration? I need to go there immediately!"

"It's pretty expensive," Lyle told me through a mouth full of pizza. "And pretty far away."

"I could save up for it! I've already got twenty-nine dollars saved up for a chemistry set. I could use it for Space Camp instead."

My mom looked doubtful. "I don't know, honey. I think you're a little young for a sleepaway camp. Maybe when you're eleven. Besides, I don't think we can afford to send you to camp this year. The minivan's almost too pooped to pop. It's about time to buy a new one."

Leave it to my mom to put minivans before scientific knowledge.

"What if I pay for everything myself?"

My mom still looked doubtful. "If you saved up enough money for Space Camp — and a round-trip plane ticket — then maybe I'd consider it. Maybe."

I ran around to the other side of the table and hugged my mom. Well, it wasn't really a hug. It was more bumping my shoulder against her shoulder.

We scientists are not big huggers as a rule.

But my mom smiled anyway.

She knows a scientific hug when she gets one.

Text copyright © 2008 by Frances O'Roark Dowell

Illustrations copyright © 2008 by Preston McDaniels

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