Phineas L. MacGuire . . . Erupts!: The First Experiment

Phineas L. MacGuire . . . Erupts!: The First Experiment

4.7 16
by Frances O'Roark Dowell, Preston McDaniels

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1. He's allergic to purple, telephone calls, and girls, and can prove it.

2. He's probably the world's expert on mold, including which has the highest stink potential.

3. He does not have a best friend. He does, however, have an un-best… See more details below



1. He's allergic to purple, telephone calls, and girls, and can prove it.

2. He's probably the world's expert on mold, including which has the highest stink potential.

3. He does not have a best friend. He does, however, have an un-best friend, who he does not -- repeat, not -- want to upgrade to best-friend status.

But disaster strikes when his teacher pairs Mac and his un-best friend together for the upcoming science fair. Worse, this un-best friend wants the project to be on dinosaurs, which is so third grade. Worse still, it seems as though everyone else in his class finds the un-best friend as unlikable as Mac does. But, being a boy-scientist, once Mac notices this, he just might have to do some investigating.

This very funny young middle-grade novel includes tantalizingly grue- some experiments for exploding your own volcanoes and imploding marshmallows.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Dowell (Dovey Coe) creates a likable hero who proves that kids can be both smart and funny. Fourth grade does not get off to a super start for Mac in this first installment of the From the Highly Selective Notebooks of Phineas L. MacGuire series. In his clipped, comical first-person narrative, he explains that his best friend, who shared his passion for science, recently moved away. His "un-best friend," also named Mac, is a new classmate whose tough-guy persona immediately alienates his peers. When their teacher pairs the two as partners for the science fair, narrator Mac wants to do their project on mold and the new Mac suggests they do it on dinosaurs (they pick a third that gives the book its title: an erupting volcano). On a visit to his new classmate's apartment, Mac makes some un-scientific discoveries: the boy's name is actually Ben (he changed it so he'd have something in common with someone in his new class), he is an accomplished artist who creates comic books, and he is "really a pretty nice person." Dowell nicely builds their blossoming friendship, and Mac devises a plan to re-introduce Ben to their classmates. Several subplots further enliven this amiable tale, among them narrator Mac's friendly rivalry with a smart classmate who insists that she will win first place at the fair. McDaniel contributes spirited half-tone illustrations to the novel, which concludes with directions for performing several experiments mentioned in the story. Ages 8-12. (July) Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
Children's Literature - Elizabeth D. Schafer
Ingenious fourth grader Phineas Listerman MacGuire, known as Mac, identifies himself as a scientist and mold expert. He reads Scientific American; can prove he is allergic to many things, including girls; and is a seasoned model volcano builder. Missing his best friend Marcus, who moved soon after school began, Mac dislikes new classmate Mac Robbins, who boasts he is smarter than everyone at Woodbrook Elementary School. The children's quirky teacher, Mrs. Tuttle, keeps a jar packed with rubber frogs on her desk to reward pupils. She insists that students pair up to prepare science fair projects. Mac reluctantly recognizes Aretha Timmons, a smart girl who usually is his rival, as the most likely classmate to achieve a prize-winning project with him, but Mrs. Tuttle partners her with someone else before pairing the two Macs together. While working on their project, the boys' friendship develops realistically. Mac comes to respect Mac R's artistic talent as he realizes truths that explain Mac R.'s unpleasant behavior. Mac and Aretha resourcefully apply scientific methods to solve a classroom mystery together. Pencil sketches effectively convey the novel's humorous tone. Instructions for three experiments, which readers will be eager to try, supplement the text. Designated as the first experiment "From the Highly Scientific Notebooks of Phineas L. MacGuire" series, pair this book with Wendelin Van Draanen's "Shredderman" books.
School Library Journal
Gr 2-4-What do you do when your best friend moves in the second week of 4th grade? That is the situation facing Phineas Listerman MacGuire (Mac). Everyone in class already has a best friend, except for the new kid-Mac Robbins, known as Mac R., who has gone out of his way to alienate his classmates. The one bright light in Mac's life is the science fair in a few weeks. He is a scientist who specializes in volcanoes, a passion that his friend Marcus shared. When Mac R. is assigned to be his partner, Mac is sure it will be a disaster. Surprisingly, he finds that the new kid has some good ideas about their project, has a talent in art, and isn't as tough as he pretends to be. His real name is actually Ben. Though their science project hits a few bumps along the way, the volcano has a successful eruption and it looks like Mac just might have a new best friend. Three science experiments are appended, including, of course, an erupting volcano. Readers who enjoy Suzy Kline's "Herbie Jones" (Putnam) and "Horrible Harry" books (Viking) will find Mac appealing.-Terrie Dorio, Santa Monica Public Library, CA Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
Budding scientist and fourth-grader Mac has just lost his best friend to a move. Now at lunch he sits at "the table for people who don't have anyone else to sit with." He does, however, have an "un-best friend," Mac R., newly arrived from Seattle and pugnaciously determined to hate everything at Woodbrook Elementary. In the way of young middle-grade novels, Mac and Mac R. are thrown together for the big science-fair project, which itself proves a Petri dish for the cultivation of their unlikely friendship. Mac is a thoroughly likable kid, whose easy sense of self makes it that much harder to understand the spiky Mac R., but which also helps him to help his partner win over their classmates. Dowell adapts to this shorter and simpler mode of storytelling easily, painting her characters with deft strokes and providing them with enough emotional complexity to make them comfortably three-dimensional. Mac's chatty narrative includes several references to science projects, which are described and explained in an appendix. All in all, a smart, funny read-the first in a promising series. (Fiction. 8-12)

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Product Details

Publication date:
From the Highly Scientific Notebooks of Phineas L. MacGuire , #1
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File size:
6 MB
Age Range:
8 - 12 Years

Read an Excerpt

chapter one

My name is Phineas Listerman MacGuire.

Most people call me Mac.

It's okay if you call me Phin.

You can even call me Phineas.

Forget about calling me Listerman.

I am allergic to fifteen things. My mom says this is not true, that I'm only allergic to two things, peanuts and cat hair. But I am a scientist, and she's not. I have scientific proof that it makes me itchy to think about the following items:


Yogurt, any flavor

Cottage cheese

Grape jelly

Any kind of kissing,

especially when there's lipstick


Purple flowers

Purple Magic Markers

Purple crayons

Anything purple

Moist towelettes in foil packs

Telephone calls

All girls

I started fourth grade three weeks ago. When I started, I had a best friend. His name was Marcus Ballou. Marcus is also a scientist. We were a scientific team. We specialized in volcanoes, caves, fossils, all insects, and the solar system. But mostly volcanoes.

We have made and erupted over eighty-seven volcanoes in our lifetime. It's very simple. You take an empty soda bottle (big) and put it in a baking pan (also big). Fill the bottle with lots of baking soda and four or five squirts of dishwashing liquid.

Then add vinegar and stand back.

You should do it outside, in case you were wondering. Unless you have a less irritated mom than mine. Then maybe you could do it on the kitchen table. If you're like me and spill stuff everywhere even when you're trying really hard to be careful, you should definitely do it at a friend's house.

Here is the problem with Marcus: He moved. To Lawrence, Kansas. This is bad for at least two reasons. Now we aren't a scientific team anymore. Also, he waited until the second week of school to move. If he had moved before school started, then I would have known to look around for a new best friend on the first day.

But I didn't know to do this. I still had Marcus.

Everybody knew that me and Marcus were best friends and a scientific team. No one else tried to be best friends with us. They picked other best friends.

Here's what you would hear all the time:

"Mac and Marcus"

"Mac and Marcus"

"Mac and Marcus"

Now all you hear is:




Scientifically speaking, it's a pretty lonely sound.

Copyright © 2006 by Frances O¹Roark Dowell

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