The Contagious Colors of Mumpley Middle School, by Fowler DeWitt, illustrated by Rodolfo Montalvo (Atheneum, Middle Grade, September 3, 2013), is tailor-made for kids who like their wacky middle school science fun with glowing snot. And glowing puke...
Young Wilmer Dooley wants to follow in the footsteps of his father, famous for his invention of SugarBUZZZZ, 12 fluorescent colored flavors of high energy fun. So Wilmer has set his sights on the sixth grade science medal...and if he can get the beautiful Roxy to smile favorably on him, that would make his year even better.
When his classmates start flashing fluorescent colors of his own, and bouncing of the walls with manic energy (more so than usual), Wilmer knows he has his science project. So he sets of to find the cause of this colorful contagion in true scientific style. And yes, glowing snot and puke samples are an essential part of his data. But there are those who want Wilmer to fail--his hostile science teacher (threatened by his intelligence) and his sixth-grade rival, Claudius, who's determined to take on the role of Evil Genius.
The stakes get higher when Wilmer discovers the source of the epidemic...and learns that, if left untreated, his classmates might well explode...
So yes, there's ick (not exactly appealing to the grown-up reader). But there are kids out there who will doubtless find it funny as all get out. The colorful contagion and its manifestations are divertingly presented. Looking past the snot, the book actually offers a nice introduction to epidemiology and the scientific method, that should appeal to the scientifically-minded reader who can tolerate wackiness.
I'm not quite sure that fifth and sixth grade boys, the most likely readers, will appreciate the amount of page time (considerable) given to Wilmer's unrequited crush--from my own experience, boys that age still shun open acknowledgement of that part of life (finding it more disturbing than glowing snot). The book opens with Wilmer day-dreaming about Roxy, which might make it off-putting.
I also can't help be bothered by the minor but distressing fact that Wilmer took fourteen test-tubes home from his science classroom. This gives his teacher, who suspects him, a legitimate reason to dislike him, and given that Wilmer's dad is a scientist, couldn't he have just asked at home?
Final answer: offer it to kids fascinated by gross science, with a tolerance for the absurd (this is one of those handy cases where readers who find the cover appealing will almost certainly enjoy the book).
Courtesy of the publishers, I'm hosting a giveaway of one copy of The Contagious Colors of Mumpley Middle School plus a box of custom-made Contagious Colors band-aids! Just leave a comment to enter by midnight next Thursday, Sept. 12.
Here's another review (and giveaway) at GreenBeanTeenQueen
disclaimer: review copy received from the publisher