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3 out of 4 stars
Review by ALynnPowers
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After an accident at Jake’s science fair, local residents begin to go missing. Concerned that his plant growth formula had something to connect the two unlikely events, Jake does some investigating and discovers a sentient, mutant plant-picnic basket that is mind-controlling residents for its own evil schemes. Jake and his family then begin to work together to come up with a way to stop the horrible creature from controlling and destroying their town. For once, his grandfather’s wacky inventions just might come in handy.
This book is great for readers who are too old for children’s books but aren’t quite ready for typical young adult books. I especially like how this book is gender neutral and doesn’t seem to be targeted toward a single gender; girls and boys can equally enjoy this story. It contains a lot of scientific information and isn’t dumbed down for the younger audience. As a teacher, I personally appreciate seeing written works that encourage the growth of language and knowledge, as opposed to using more simplified language and concepts that don’t teach readers anything they don’t already know.
That being said, I did come across several grammatical errors that could have been skimmed over in the editing process. In a book for this target audience, I think it’s especially important to present flawless writing so that readers (who are also potential future writers) can build a good foundation for grammar and writing. I would also like to point out that this book takes place in England and uses a lot of English slang and cultural references that I, as an American, am a little clueless about. I suspect that younger readers would not understand some of these at all. We can always look them up on the internet if we’re curious, but I thought that many readers would appreciate having some kind of “glossary” to explain these references that don’t translate well across dialects and oceans.
There are a lot difficult concepts and plot points presented in the story, and a few times I questioned whether I really understood what was going on. Other times I questioned whether certain characters or elements of the plot were really necessary in the story at all. However, I enjoyed this book as a whole, and I wouldn’t feel comfortable or honest giving it a low rating. With a final rating of 3 out of 4 stars, I recommend this book to young lovers of science fiction who are willing to commit to a challenging read.
Jake and the man-eating Picnic Basket
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