The Smartest Kid in the Universe by Chris Grabenstein

Published by Random House Books for Young Readers

The Smartest Kid in the Universe: Grabenstein, Chris: 9780525647782:  Books

Summary:  Jake is your typical video-game-playing middle school slacker until he accidentally eats a jar of jelly beans…at least he thinks they’re jelly beans, but in reality they’re ingestible knowledge pills.  Suddenly, Jake knows all kinds of things that help him in every area of his life: school, basketball, and impressing his crush Grace Garcia.  Grace, Jake, and Jake’s best friend Kojo discover a plot to destroy their school as well as some buried treasure that may or may not be underneath the school building.  When they realize that evil vice principal Ms. Malvolio is after the same treasure, Jake has to use every bit of his brain power to try to beat her to the riches and save his school.  Includes several pages of brainteasers.  304 pages; grades 3-7.

Pros:  The author, the premise, the short chapters, the fast pace, the humor, and the eye-catching cover are all sure to appeal to reluctant and avid readers alike.  Book 2, Genius Camp, is due out in 2021.

Cons:  Nothing particularly original here, including the slacker white dude protagonist and his black sidekick (who even identifies himself as “the sidekick”).

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