What do magnetic slime, a secret code, and the periodic table have in common? They're all part of the science-themed escape room that Kate's science teacher puts on for their class. Will Kate and her friends be able to use their science know-how to crack the code before time runs out?
From Kate the Chemist, chemistry professor and science entertainer as seen on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert, The Wendy Williams Show, and The Today Show, comes a clever and fun middle grade series that is the perfect introduction to STEM for young readers!
Make Your Own Magnetic Slime! Experiment Inside!
Praise for Kate the Chemist: Dragons vs. Unicorns:
"Proves that science and fun go together like molecules in a polymer."School Library Journal
"It's a great introduction to the basics of Chemistry that is readily accessible to a variety of ages . . . . The way the everyday chemistry is blended in is done seamlessly, and has [me and my ten-year-old son] noticing how we are all doing a little bit of science everyday." GeekMom.com
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Read an Excerpt
“Who’s ready to unleash some ghosts?” asked Ms. Daly.
“I am!” My feet bounced, along with my ponytail. And every atom in my body. We weren’t going to release real ghosts though. Actual spooky stuff scares me.
Instead, we were going to create ghosts in our science lab at school.
Ms. Daly stood in the front of the class in her blue lab coat, safety goggles around her neck. “Don’t forget to put on your gloves,” she said. “This might be a competition, but safety comes first.”
Ms. Daly was teaching a special week of science classes for our Fall Science Challenge. She’s a retired air force flight engineer. Normally, she’s in charge of the after-school chemistry club, which I never ever miss, but this week she was there during the school day, too.
“It’s show time!” Ms. Daly pulled on her goggles, adjusting the strap around her short silver hair.
Plucking a stopwatch out of her pocket, she peered out at the nine of us. Basically half of my fifth-grade class. While we were doing the Fall Science Challenge, the other half of my class was drumming with Mr.
Graham. It would be our turn to drum tomorrow.
“Okay, in your places,” said Ms. Daly. “We’re going to start in three minutes. All the materials are right here.” She pointed to a rectangular table next to her filled with things like plastic soda bottles, food coloring, baking soda, and lemons.
Thrusting my chin forward, I checked out the supplies and wondered what to expect. I had to be prepared for anything. The Ghost was our first challenge, followed by something called Moon Rocks, and then Neon Brains.
“Jeremy’s team already has their bottle,” called out Phoenix Altman, who was on my team. “That’s definitely not fair!”
“I agree,” said Julia Yoon from the table diagonally across from ours.
Everyone’s eyes zoomed in on Jeremy Rowe. He’s hard to miss, because he’s big with a purple streak in his blond hair. Arms folded, he stood next to his teammates, Memito Alvarez and Elijah Williams. The three blinked as if someone had taken a photo with a really bright flash.
“Boys, I strongly suggest you put the bottle back,” said Ms. Daly in a firm voice.
Brushing a curl off his forehead, Jeremy said extra sweetly, “I didn’t know we weren’t supposed to take it yet.” Sometimes he charms teachers, but luckily Ms. Daly doesn’t fall for stuff like that.
“Cheating makes me so mad,” I said under my breath to my teammates, Birdie Bhatt and Phoenix.
“I can’t believe he thought he could get away with it,” whispered Birdie, who happens to be my very best friend.
“I can,” Phoenix said, fiddling with the macramé bracelet on her wrist. “Jeremy makes up his own rules.” Smoothing her tie-dye shirt, she sighed dramatically.
“Boys,” said Ms. Daly. “If you don’t put back what you took, your grade will suffer.”
Memito smacked the bottle into Jeremy’s hand. “Dude, hurry,” Memito whispered with a worried frown. But Jeremy just strolled back toward the equipment table. Meanwhile, his teammate Elijah peered up at a poster about molecules. He’s my other best friend, and I know he’d never purposefully cheat.
“Mr. Rowe, you’re moving slower than pond water.” Ms. Daly waved her glove-covered hand. “You wouldn’t want to be the cause of your team being disqualified from winning the prize, would you?”
All at once, Jeremy zipped across the floor. Then he banged down the bottle. “That prize is going to be ours,” he announced all matter-of-factly.
“Sorry, but FYI, that’s going to be our team,” said Julia, crossing her arms. She is student council president and knows a thing or two about winning. She flicked her eyes knowingly at her teammates, Avery Cooper and Skyler Rumsky, the tallest and also quietest boy in the fifth grade.
“Actually, it’s going to be us.” I curled my arms around Birdie and Phoenix. I really wanted our team to win the prize—the chance to do the Vomiting Pumpkin demo at the Fall Festival this weekend. This year is our last Fall Festival at Franklin, since we’ll be in middle school next year. So it’s got to be epic.
And yes, the demo is as cool and disgusting as it sounds. Green foaming goop oozes out of a jack-o’-
lantern’s mouth. I’ve seen Dr. Caroline, my favorite chemist, do it on YouTube.
I hoped that the Ghost we were about to make for the Fall Science Challenge would be just as awesome.
I had been looking forward to the Science Challenge for weeks.
All right, months.
It was a tradition at Rosalind Franklin Elementary School. It came right before the Fall Festival, so in my opinion, it was the very best time of the year. Why?
Well, some kids are into stuffed animal collections.
Others are into certain video games. Or art, like my BFF Birdie.
I—Kate Crawford—am all about science, especially chemistry. I was so ready to start that my mouth watered.
You see, I wasn’t just ready to start the Science
Challenge. I was ready to win it.
“Okay, you have fifteen seconds before the challenge begins,” said Ms. Daly. “Be prepared to read the directions on your index cards.”
Kids snapped their goggles onto their heads. Mine were a little too tight, but I’d just have to deal with it.
“Ready, set, you bet!” called out Ms. Daly.
Everyone flipped over the index card with the directions for how to make the Ghost.
“Why don’t you read it aloud,” I suggested to Phoenix. “Birdie and I will grab what we need.”
After drawing in a deep breath, Phoenix read dramatically. “The goal is to make a spooky Ghost that reaches the finish line.”
“What finish line?” I said, glancing around the science lab. “Where?”
Birdie gazed up, and a smile grew on her face. “Up there!” she pointed.
The other two teams focused on the ceiling, where yellow crepe paper hung from one side of the room to the other.
“Aha!” I whispered. “Now I get it.”
“In order to complete this challenge and go on to Moon Rocks,” continued Ms. Daly, “your Ghost must touch the yellow line. Remember to pick up your supplies here.”
She pointed to the table next to a large potted cactus.
“Our Ghost’s going to get a gold medal,” said Jeremy, twirling his pointer finger like he was number one.
“Correction,” said Julia. “That would be ours.”
“More like ours,” I said. “And ours is going to be like Casper, a very friendly ghost.”
Elijah giggled, Memito shook his head, and Jeremy smirked.
Phoenix plunked her hands on her hips. I could tell she was as serious as I was about the competition. And just as annoyed at Jeremy, too.
Meanwhile Birdie kept on peering up at the ceiling with a dreamy expression. She’s an artist, so it didn’t faze me too much. I’m definitely used to the ways of my BFF.
“Keep reading, please,” I urged Phoenix. “Hurry.”
“Okay.” Phoenix shoved her long reddish-brown hair over her shoulder. “To make your spooky Ghost, you’ll first need: one empty soda bottle and a few drops of food coloring.”
I sped to the equipment table with Birdie tagging right behind.
“No running,” Ms. Daly called out.
My cheeks warmed. I hate getting called out. First of all, I don’t like it when anyone’s upset with me. Second of all, I have a little more pressure than the average student at Franklin to behave. My mom just happens to be the principal.
Believe me, it’s something I can never forget.
Birdie and I wove around everyone as they grabbed what they needed off the materials table.
“No pushing,” reminded Ms. Daly. “Follow our lab rules.”
Birdie scooped up little bottles of red, yellow, green, and blue food coloring. “I can make purple and other colors,” she cried enthusiastically as I snagged an empty plastic soda bottle.
Together, we speed-walked back to Phoenix.
“What’s next?” I asked, trying to keep my impatience in check. Only I couldn’t help bobbing up and down in excitement.
“You have to add water to the soda bottle,” said
Phoenix, reading the card extra slowly. She over-
enunciated as if she were giving a speech. It irked me, but I tried not to let it show. Glancing over at the other teams, I noticed they were all reading together silently. I zipped around to glance over Phoenix’s shoulder.
“Next, add the food coloring and stir,” continued Phoenix. “Oh, and then add dry ice.”
“I’m on it,” I said. “The getting water part, that is.”
At the table in front of us, Jeremy frantically motioned to Elijah. “Hurry,” shouted Jeremy and Memito at the same time. We were obviously on the very same step of the Make-a-Ghost challenge.
This wasn’t good.
Elijah rushed ahead of me toward the sink. “I’m on it!”
I huffed in frustration. There was no way I could beat him without sprinting, and I wasn’t about to do that again.
“Hello, I’m just walking over here,” I said, smiling and waving at Ms. Daly, who stood in front of the dry ice cart. I beat Julia to the sink but was too slow to catch up to Elijah.
“Sorry, Kate. Maybe you’ll beat me next time,” he said, grinning. “Then again, there might not be a next time.”
“Oh, there’s always a next time!” I said in my most light-hearted voice. But I was feeling as rotten as a sulfuric compound. That’s the stuff that makes skunks reek.
In dismay, I watched Elijah turn on the faucet full blast. As water rushed out, he hooted with happiness. Then over by Julia’s table, there was a burst of cheering.
I whipped around to see that Julia wasn’t in line behind me after all. Instead, she gloated as she filled up the soda bottle with the water from her insulated blue drinking bottle. Avery and Skyler clapped and whooped.
Biting my lip, I studied the speckled tile floor of the science lab. Why hadn’t I thought of that?
Of course, my water bottle sat in the very bottom of my backpack, in the very back of the classroom. There was no way I could use Julia’s water bottle trick to pull ahead.
“Tra la la! I don’t need to go to the sink,” Julia sang out, taunting me. As she shook the soda bottle, I could hear the ice clinking.
“Nice and cold!” Avery called out, while Skyler smiled in his shy way.
Wait a minute—something was off. But I couldn’t quite put my finger on it.
And then, faster than a speeding electron, it came to me.
I figured out what was wrong. It all had to do with dry ice. Right when we first entered the science lab, Ms. Daly had said, “If you think a glacier is cold, then try touching dry ice. Actually don’t. Never ever touch dry ice, because it’s so cold it can burn you.”
That meant if I wanted the chemical reaction to work quickly and make the best Ghost, one that would hit the finish line, we would need to use warm water. It would turn the dry ice into a gas way faster.
I flipped on the faucet and water gushed out. It was sooooo cold.
Then I waited.
I waved my fingers through the stream, but it was still cold.
“What’s taking you so long?” cried Phoenix.
“Jeremy’s group is about to put in their dry ice. And Julia’s group already did.”
As Ms. Daly pushed the cart with the tub of dry ice over to Jeremy’s table, the wheels rumbled over the floor. With her silver tongs, she plopped in the pellets of dry ice.
Meanwhile, I tested the water again.
Still lukewarm. What was wrong with the pipes at this school?
“What are you doing?” cried out Phoenix. Birdie’s eyebrows arched in concern.
“I’ll explain later,” I mumbled.
“We can’t wait.” Phoenix’s mouth gaped open as she frantically pointed to the other groups. “Look at them!” I tried not to let the hiss of bubbles in the other bottles bother me.
Jeremy, Elijah, and Memito hunched over their bottle, screaming, “Boooooooooo!” Waving their arms, they were glowing and grinning like jack-o’-lanterns.
Meanwhile Julia, Avery, and Skyler stared in wide-eyed wonder at their experiment.
Everyone was getting ahead. But I couldn’t let that stop us. “Don’t worry!” I called out. “We can catch up.”
Finally, at long last, the water gushed out warm. I filled the bottle up halfway, had Birdie add in the food coloring, and then speed-walked over to the cart.
I smiled up at Ms. Daly. “Ten pieces of dry ice please,” I said. But not in that fake innocent way that Jeremy uses. Just in my regular voice.
“You got it, Kate,” Ms. Daly said, dropping the dry ice into my bottle. It landed in the bottle with a satisfying plunk, plunk, plunk.
I speed-walked back to our table.
“Look!” I cried. “Bubbles are scooting to the surface.” The bottle of bluish, purplish water filled with bubbles, first at the bottom, then shooting up to escape to the top.
Jumping up and down, I could feel my own bubbles of happiness.
“The pressure is building.” I rubbed my hands together. “This is good. Very good!”
Shapeless curls of white vapor spurted into the air.
“Wow! It looks like a ghost,” gushed Birdie. “Like the one my aunty in Ann Arbor saw in her house.”
“Oh, c’mon,” I said. “She was only trying to scare you.”
“Nope, it was real,” insisted Birdie.
“No way,” I said.
“I bet she could feel the presence of the ghost right in her bones,” said Phoenix. “That’s how you know a ghost has shown up.”
“Well, this ghost is definitely here! Look!” The Ghost rose up from the bubbling brew. It reached out a spooky, misty finger. A curl of vapor touched the yellow finish line.
“We finished the first challenge!” hooted Phoenix, who then spun around in her ballet-
like, vegan leather shoes. Her long hair swirled around her shoulders.
Birdie gawked at the shifting shape of the mist. “It’s so pretty.”
“Yes, it’s beautiful. We did it!” I said.
Operation Ghost was a success. We all high-fived.
And that’s when I heard a familiar moan, and it was coming from the corner of the room.
The Ice Age
Elijah bent over, staring at his bottle. “Hey, guys. C’mon. I’m sure it will start to explode like a volcano. Just give it a sec.”
“More like eternity.” Jeremy stood with his arms crossed, glaring. The reddish-orange mixture bubbled, but only a little bit. Hardly any vapor escaped.
Memito blew out an exasperated sigh. “It’s never going to work, guys. We’re going to lose.” He slumped back in his chair. “We need a miracle.”
“I bet there’s a simple solution,” said Elijah in an upbeat voice. But I knew he was feeling down. I watched him tug on his afro. He only did that when he was really upset. I felt awful for him.
“Check the water,” I whispered from across the room.
He kept on staring at the water with hopeful eyes, like it would start to fizz as fast as opening a soda can. But that only happens because the pressure is released, and then carbon dioxide bubbles out.
“It’s not a ghost. It’s like a wimpy version of Alka-
Seltzer,” said Memito.
Elijah leaned his hands against the table. “We just need to give it more time.”
“Psst, Elijah,” I said, creeping toward him. “Check the water.”
His brows drew together. “The water?”
“What are you doing, Kate?” asked Phoenix, frantically waving the index card for our next challenge. “We need to get started on Moon Rocks.”
I held up my hand. “Hold up.”
Cupping my mouth, I whispered to Elijah. “You need warmer water.”
“Oh, thanks, Kate!” His lips pulled into a wide smile. “So I just need to add warm water. Will do!”
“We’re supposed to use warm water?” gasped Julia, whose table was right in front of Elijah’s.
“Um, yeah,” I admitted a little reluctantly.
Julia frowned at her group’s attempt at a Ghost. “We put in ice water.” She hoisted up her water bottle. “And it’s not doing anything.”
“There’s no mist,” said Avery. “Nothing’s hap-
“Just a few tiny bubbles,” murmured Skyler.
“Guess we’re all doomed to get bad grades,” said Memito in a gloomy voice.
“Except for Kate the Chemist, Phoenix, and Birdie,” said Jeremy.
“Everyone calm down.” Ms. Daly made a stopping motion. “In science, if you don’t like how it’s going, it’s fine to start again. Get new bottles and I’ll take yours.” Elijah and Julia eagerly handed theirs back to Ms. Daly, then they hustled over to the materials table to grab new bottles.
I strolled triumphantly back to my teammates. Only, instead of smiling, Phoenix glared at me.
“You helped Jeremy’s group,” she accused with a baffled expression. “And Julia’s, too.”
“Well, that second part was by accident. But Elijah’s my friend,” I said, resenting that I even needed to explain this.
Birdie shot me an understanding look. Elijah was her friend too. But since Elijah was my next-door neighbor, I’ve known him even longer than Birdie. He and I started hanging out when we were still in diapers. Our moms would take us to the playground together. I met Birdie a few years later in first grade, and we’ve bonded like hydrogen and oxygen in water ever since.
“Well, we’d better get started on Moon Rocks,” Phoenix said. “We need to keep our lead.”
“Don’t worry, we’ve got it under control,” I said. “It’s all going to work out.
Uh, not really. That was the worst prediction I’ve ever made.
Because what happened next was the opposite of working out.
It was a science disaster of epic proportions.
A Sour Moment
A Moon Rock is made up of two teaspoons of water, a cup of baking soda, and a few drops of food coloring. Wearing gloves, you shape it into an alien-
looking rock. Then you pour lemon juice onto the rock to watch the reaction.
Sounds simple, right?
It would be . . . if your best friend weren’t an artist.
It would be . . . if she weren’t obsessed with the Moon Rock becoming the perfect shade of teal blue.
“That’s awesome, Birdie,” I said encouragingly, as she kept on adding a little more food coloring.
“It’s getting close,” she admitted, biting her lip. “But I don’t have the blue to yellow ratio right.”
“But you do,” I insisted. “Don’t you think so, Phoenix?” I nudged her shoulder.
“Actually,” Phoenix answered in her slow way. “It looks really close to me.”
“Not quite,” said Birdie. “It’s too dark, almost royal blue.”
“Good enough for royalty, good enough for me,” I quipped. “So while you work on that, I’m going to cut up the lemon, so we can have the—” I stopped speaking.
Instead I was staring at Jeremy’s group as they squeezed not one but two lemons over their misshapen green moon rock. They were pulling way ahead of us. Their group would be the ones to get to do the Vomiting Pumpkin demo, and not ours.
Memito tossed away the squeezed lemon halves while Elijah whooped in delight. “Dude, look! That’s alien activity if I ever saw it.”
“They’re communicating with us,” said Memito. “They’re preparing an invasion.” He cowered in mock fear.
“Nah. They’re telling the mother ship that we’re going to win,” sang out Jeremy.
Memito puffed out his cheeks and made spluttering radio signal sounds. That kid loved to make sound effects.
“Earth to mother ship,” called out Elijah. “We have conquered!”
“Not so fast!” I chopped my lemon in half super fast and raced to my table. “Okay,” I said. “I’m ready with the lemons.”
But I couldn’t squeeze the lemons yet since Birdie was now adding silver glitter. “Don’t you think it already looks great?” I said, gritting my teeth.
“And now it will look even better,” gushed Birdie.
Then the rest of what she was saying was drowned out by a squealing Avery. “See! It’s a crater,” she cried, waving at Skyler and Julia. “We did it. It’s foaming!”
They all clapped, admiring their perfect fizzy Moon Rock.
Oh, no. Suddenly, I wanted a rewind. In chemistry, they call that a reversible reaction. But right now, it seemed like my fate was sealed. It was irreversible. We were losing.
“Time for the final challenge!” called out Jeremy, as Elijah read the directions for the Neon Brains.
“We’re behind,” I said with lemon juice dripping down my arm. “So let’s go!”
Birdie whirled around, holding the little bottles of food coloring. She glanced at the teal color of the rock. “It’s really the perfect shade of blue now.”
“Uh-huh,” I said, squeezing the lemon juice over the Moon Rock. It foamed, making a crackly sound. “It worked! You guys, we can catch up,” I said, trying to stay positive. “Let’s just get the materials for the Neon Brains. All of them.”
For the first time, Phoenix read quickly. “One tall cup, one tablespoon of dish soap, one cup of water, one highlighter, one pair of pliers, and a baking sheet.”
As Birdie and I headed to the supply table, I heard Phoenix ask Ms. Daly if there could be more than one winning team. “What if there’s a tie because we’re all marvelous?” she asked. “And doing good things?”
“I have no problem with that possibility,” said Ms. Daly, heading back to her desk.
That’s when I saw Jeremy shake his head as he made his way to the supply table. “There’s only going to be one winning team,” he said.
Phoenix spread out her arms. “Well, if that’s true, you’re looking at a member of the winning team.”
“That’s what you think. You’re such a teacher’s pet,” snapped Jeremy.
“Don’t call her that,” I growled, stepping up to
Jeremy until we practically bumped noses. He was really getting on my nerves.
“We’re all so marvelous,” said Jeremy, imitating the way Phoenix overenunciated words.
“Uh-oh,” said Memito, making explosion sounds with his mouth. “There’s about to be fireworks.”
Elijah threw up his hands. “Don’t look at me.”
“Actually, she’s looking at me,” said Jeremy.
I jabbed my finger in the air. “Well, your team took the plastic bottle, even before we were supposed to start.”
“Yeah, but we put it back,” said Jeremy.
“Only because Ms. Daly told you to,” hissed
“You guys should be disqualified!” I said.
“Wrong!” yelled Jeremy, grabbing the pliers from the supply table at the same time as me. “Let go, Kate.”
“No, it’s ours.”
We tugged on the pliers.
Elijah stepped away from us, banging into Phoenix. With a yelp, she dropped a cup of soapy water, which thunked onto the floor and then she stepped back into the potted cactus. Her hand slid right into some needles. “Ouch!” she groaned as she swiped her hand away.
The pliers thudded onto the floor.
Ms. Daly rushed to Phoenix. “Are you all right?”
Phoenix squinted as if holding back tears. “Yes,” she said, balling up her hand.
“It’s all because of Jeremy!” I said.
“Well, and Elijah, too,” said Phoenix.
“It was an accident!” protested Elijah.
“I hope so,” said Phoenix, not looking convinced.
Then Jeremy called out, “Phoenix is a teacher’s pet. And Kate and Birdie!”
Birdie folded her arms across her chest. “We are not!”
That’s when Ms. Daly said in an eerily calm voice, “Everyone needs to stop talking right now.” She squinted at the six of us. “I think you all know what this means.”