'Nick and Tesla's Secret Agent Gadget Battle' is the third installment in the MG mystery series starring the brother-sister team and their mad scientist uncle. 'Secret Agent Gadget Battle' introduces even more mysteries, plot twists and DIY science projects.
All is not what it seems in Uncle Newt's quiet town. Nick and Tesla have suspected for a while that their parents aren't really studying soybeans in Uzbekistan, but now they have reason to believe that they are being watched by sinister agents. After an urgent phone call from their mother, they start seeing spies around every corner. But who might be the spy? Uncle Newt's new sort-of-girlfriend? His apprentice from the M.A.D. Scientist board? One of the neighbors? The cleaning ladies, or the exterminator? In true scientific fashion, Nick and Tesla set out to determine who's watching them, and why.
The 'Nick and Tesla' books feature step-by-step instructions for gadgets and simple machines. The build-it-yourself projects vary in difficulty, but most of the gadgets in 'Secret Agent Gadget Battle' are on the more difficult side. For readers who have been following the series, the difficulty is graded slightly per book so that the experience from previous books can be applied to each successive book. That way, the projects don't get too easy or boring. There's always a new challenge with each new mystery to solve.
If you want to construct as you read along, prepare to block out a good amount of time for each project. Adult involvement is key, not only to aid the learning process and make the gadget-building go smoother, but to buy some of the materials and use any power tools or knives as needed. None of the materials are anything you can't find at the store; however, you will need to purchase some items and have access to tools if you want to complete these projects. The author also demonstrates some of the projects on the series website. Readers are also encouraged to send them pictures of completed projects.
As such, the 'Nick and Tesla' books are ideal for a classroom setting. It would be easy to build one of the books into a middle school physical science curriculum. The teacher might assign each group of students a project from the book, for example, or do each project as a class. The reading level is somewhere in the middle to younger end of MG fiction, probably too advanced for elementary students but perfect for 11-12 year-olds. Authors Steve Hockensmith and "Science Bob" Pflugfelder are educators themselves, and the series they have written is friendly to family and classroom education.
The books are well-written, with memorable characters and engaging plots. Even if you don't build each gadget, 'Nick and Tesla's Secret Agent Gadget Battle' is a good read. The series also subtly addresses several concerns about representation in science and in children's literature: one of the main characters is female and interested in science, and there is a good mix of genders, ethnicities, abilities, and personalities in the characters overall. Whether it's gadgets, mysteries, or characters, the 'Nick and Tesla' books have something to interest everyone.