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Formats
Paperback Book Details
  • 09/2020
  • 9780985007447
  • 218 pages
  • $14.99
The Science of Defying Gravity
L. G. Reed, author

Children/Young Adult; General Fiction (including literary and historical); (Market)

THE SCIENCE OF DEFYING GRAVITY by L.G. Reed and published by Keyes Canyon Press. This novel is a genre mashup of STEM based science learning and fictional story. Eleven year old Cassie films her life. She loves movies and dreams of becoming a movie director in space. Step one of her master plan is to go to Space Camp. Her parents planned to send her, but when Dad loses his job, they can’t afford the fee. After learning of a scholarship opportunity Cassie resolves to win on Academic Achievement. A tall order for a kid who is smart but doesn’t pay attention in class and is not doing well in science. She’ll need two letters of recommendation: one from her teacher and one from the Principal. Never one to say no, and with the encouragement of her best friend Wylie, she approaches her teacher. Though skeptical that Cassie will buckle down, her teacher assigns her a science fair project that must be completed early and tells her she needs to get A’s and pay attention in class. Cassie selects the four forces of flight as her project and uses paper airplanes to test her thesis. Staying focused in school is a challenge. Cassie’s brothers interfere with her project and make her alternately angry and frustrated. On one occasion they hide all the airplanes she made for her trials. During a school Day with Industry she meets a woman engineer and talks with her about airplanes. This engineer is a member of the Society of Women Engineers (SWE). Cassie mentions the movie she’s making of her journey to Space Camp and about the science fair project. The engineer explains she will be one of the judges and expresses interest in seeing the video. Everything seems on track until after making her class presentation on her project, she learns that the Principal won’t issue a letter of recommendation unless she wins the entire science fair in the spring. Too late to qualify for the scholarship but when she learns there is a cash prize that would cover the tuition, she’s gung ho to win that fair. It means going up against older kids and her best friend, but she digs in. She doubles her effort with her project and beefs up the written report, documenting it all on video as well as on the presentation boards. The night before the big Science Fair her brother tosses a football in the house and breaks her presentation boards. Furious but determined, she takes what’s left to the fair and sets up her project. She props her phone, containing the video of everything she’d done to finish the experiments and write up the data and runs it on a loop. It is the only reminder of the damaged hard work. The Fair begins and judge after judge come to her, ask questions, and raise their eyebrows at her limited presentation. They all watch the video and express sympathy over her bad fortune. After all the judging completes, the woman engineer Cassie met at Day with Industry comes over and hints that Cassie couldn’t compete against the older kids and better prepared projects, but her SWE section was impressed by Cassie’s determination, spirit, and her video. They want to grant her a special award that will cover the cost of Space Camp.
Reviews
Reed’s second middle grade novel, an upbeat tale meant to encourage girls in STEM, explores the joys of scientific discovery. Fifth grader Cassie Williams dreams of going to Space Camp, her initial step toward becoming the first movie director in space. Unfortunately, her ticket to Space Camp relies on getting a good grade in science—her worst subject! With her father recently laid off, Cassie needs to make the best science fair project ever if she wants to win a scholarship and keep any hope of getting to space.

Though the science of Cassie’s paper airplane project is solid, the narrative often gets dragged down by details, such as an entire chapter of Cassie writing a lab report. The illustrations range from whimsically charming to bland. Cassie’s personal journey is full of false starts; problems with friends and her moviemaking ambitions are never really fleshed out, and though Cassie is an effective vehicle for conveying academic information, she’s not always a compelling protagonist. Her classroom setting also feels a bit dated, and at times the plot stretches credulity. However, even when the story falters, the detail is interesting enough to keep the attention of science-minded young readers.

Cassie’s journey is full of empowering female role models, including a woman engineer, and bonus material includes links to the Society of Women Engineers. Children who have a hard time grasping scientific principles may find this book more understandable than a textbook, while children who love science will be pleased with the amount of factual information and the experiments that can be done at home. The novel would work well as a classroom tool, pairing narrative with ideas for hands-on experiences, and will encourage young scientists—especially girls—to believe that their dreams are within their reach.

Takeaway: Tweens who enjoy making, building, and learning will get the most from this book about what it takes to become a scientist.

Great for fans of Asia Citro’s Zoey and Sassafras series, Linda Sue Park’s Project Mulberry.

Production grades
Cover: A
Design and typography: B
Illustrations: B-
Editing: B-
Marketing copy: C

Kirkus Reviews

“To attend space camp a girl aims to win the science fair…Useful, entertaining, and encouraging; will inspire confidence and an appreciation of science.” – Kirkus Reviews

Formats
Paperback Book Details
  • 09/2020
  • 9780985007447
  • 218 pages
  • $14.99

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