Friday, February 13, 2015

Review: The Genius Files, License to Thrill, by Dan Gutman

The Genius Files #5: License to Thrill
9780062236326

"When we last left our heroes, twins Coke and Pepsi McDonald were in Roswell, New Mexico, and they had just seen a strange beam of light. Now their cross-country road trip is about to take a detour that's out of this world—literally!
Once the twins get their feet back on the ground, they embark on the final leg of their trip, which will take them from the Hoover Dam all the way to the Golden Gate Bridge. Chased by nefarious villains, the twins will be trapped with a venomous snake, pushed through a deadly turbine, and thrown into a volcano. And craziest of all, their parents might finally believe them!"
This series has been very popular here, so i am not sure why it has taken me until the fifth book to review them. Maybe because as soon as they come in, I hand them off to my favorite very bright, brother-sister (but not twins) pair to read. I might have done the same with this one, had I not been flipping through it and come upon page 81. But, I am getting ahead of myself...

This is a solidly middle grade series. Coke and Pepsi are nearing the end of a family trip that has hit most of the fifty states, taking in all the bizarre tourist attractions across the country (their mother is writing a guidebook of sorts). They also just happen to be genius-level, top secret spies, with assorted unusual bad guys chasing them. Adults will find it a little too over-the-top at times, but they aren't the intended audience. Adults may find the tourist attractions - all real - of enough interest to enjoy the story, and may even feel inclined to follow in some of the McDonald family's footsteps. Until they remember that, as Gutman points out at one point, while the twins have ciphers and mysteries to keep them busy in between attractions, most of our children will not. Bored kids...long car trip...yeah, I'll just read the books.

Which brings me to page 81. I suppose with all the places they have visited, I shouldn't have been surprised to see some familiar sites, but I still had to run around the library showing everyone the picture of McGinn's (ahem - not McGuinn's as it is spelled in the book) giant pistachio.



 While that is not the first thing I would want to show people visiting the area (in fact, I don't think I have ever shown it to anyone), the kids love the Space Hall, which is also mentioned, and Daddy says the Rustic Cafe has the best chicken fried steak around.

Local interest aside, this final volume has the same goofiness (with painless historical and scientific trivia thrown in) that only Dan Gutman seems to get away with. Oh, and the Indiana Jones reference on page 119? Something else for us old people, thanks. Adults will probably see the finale coming, but kids will be tickled by it. None of that is meant to say that the book is dumbed down - just that it reaches its intended audience quite effectively.

And now, G. and K., I have a book for you!

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