“'There's cold chicken inside it,' replied the Rat briefly; 'coldtonguecoldhamcoldbeefpickledgherkinssaladfrench

'O stop, stop,' cried the Mole in ecstacies: 'This is too much!'”
-- from
The Wind in the Willows

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

The Secret Science Alliance and the Copycat Crook • Graphic novel

The Secret Science Alliance and the Copycat Crook
by Eleanor Davis
September 2009 
• Bloomsbury USA • Graphic Novel • Ages 10-14
Can three undercover nerds save the world? A graphic novel bursting with wacky inventions, harebrained schemes, and hilarious adventure.
Story: Supersmart Julian Calendar thinks moving to a new school will mean he can shed his nerdy image—but then he meets Ben and Greta, two secret scientists like himself. The three form a covert club, complete with a high-tech lair. There, they can work to their hearts content on projects like the Stink-O-Meter, the Kablovsky Copter, and the Nightsneak Goggles. All that tinkering comes in handy when the trio discovers an evil scientist’s dastardly plan to rob a museum. Can three inventors, armed with their wacky creations, hope to defeat this criminal mastermind? Illustrated in full color throughout, The Secret Science Alliance and the Copycat Crook is a treat for the eyes, with marvelous gadgetry rendered in elaborate detail. And stay on the lookout for more Secret Science Alliance adventures from comic supergenius Eleanor Davis!
Story behind the story: Eleanor Davis, author of the American Library Association Geisel Honor book Stinky, did the writing and drawing for the book, while Drew Weing did the "inking." Eleanor and Drew having been making comics for most of their lives and they enjoy it more than almost anything else, except for making and eating food, riding bikes, playing with their three cats, and spending time with family and friends. They like each other too, which is lucky, because they are married.

Advance praise:

“Let’s give π (3.14) cheers for The Secret Science Alliance! Eleanor Davis’s debut graphic novel perfectly captures the terrifying social divides of junior high while accurately animating every brainiac’s daydream. I want to join!”

—Tony DiTerlizzi, co-author and artist of The Spiderwick Chronicles

“Eleanor Davis is one of the most thoughtful, inventive and versatile new voices in comics today.”

—Scott McCloud, author of Understanding Comics

“Full of funny twists and clever turns . . . brimming with creativity, humor and talent.”

—Francoise Mouly, art editor of the New Yorker

FYI:  all the review copies for this title have been sent; check back and click on the comments link below to read what your colleagues have to say.
See also reviews from 100 Scope Notes, Publishers Weekly and A Fuse #8 Production (SLJ blog).


Carol said...

A graphic novel of high quality that I believe would be popular with both boys and girls. The appearance and presentation of this graphic novel sets the tone from the start. Bright and detailed illustrations, balanced with interesting text.

When I finished, I wondered if there were more, as I would like to read them. The characters were likable and each had interesting lives and unique families. I thought the plot was exciting and believable enough to relate too.

This story felt like it has much more life in it. The stage has been set for many more adventures and tales with these three friends!

K-8 Librarian

A Vasquez said...

The Secret Science Alliance is a fantastic book for reluctant readers and a wonderful step up from the Captain Underpants series.
This comic is thoughtful and smart. It has wonderful and real characters. There is an interesting conflict in the story. I like how each character struggled with a different problem. There are lots of areas for middle school students to relate to.
I will pass this on to my reluctant readers right away.

7th - 8th grade ELA

Linda said...

Was today my lucky day1 The book was a 5 out of 5. Graphic novels are the way to entice readers. This book, with its title...Secret Science Alliance, is a way to entice readers. The plot is moving and compelling. Students will want to read the next page and the next. I can't wait until tomorrow when they see it on display. I am sure that there will be a sign up list started.

EShay said...

What a fast read! I loved it. I enjoyed how it started out with the typical nerd story and then hit the reader with an important message for all nerds.
Graphic novels are fun and help those reluctant readers; I think this one would keep the reader's attention - especially if one likes to create things. The colors used were perfect - rather earthy but not nauseating. Some pages had so much on them, but I didn't have to read everything to follow along with the story.
I truly cared about the characters and enjoyed their story.

I hope I see another in the not too distant future.
I give it a 5!

Lemon the Duck said...

This book was a treat. No matter how many times my students read it they are sure to discover something new. The illustrations and captions were informative and humorous. The characters relatable and likeable. What a positive way to show kids that think "out of the box". I liked how the author balanced the positive and negetive portrayal of adults.
I give this book a 5 out of 5.
Laura Backman
Hathaway School
Author of "Lemon the Duck"

Ann said...

A great graphic for kids-- a great story of 3 friends who are secret science freaks -- a nerd who is desperate to fit in, a jock who feels dumb and a wild child who even the teachers fear. i liked the plot, i enjoyed the story, i loved the diverse characters and the good messages that tweenish kids are always interested in--identity (will i fit in) and confidence (am i stupid...no, you just don't take tests well). I also loved the graphics-- bright and page full of things to look at. 5 out of 5 for the secret science alliance.

PLLoggerR said...

The graphic novel "The Secret Science Alliance and the Copycat Crook" by Eleanor Davis
caught my attention from the very beginning. The first page lays out one of the plots--fitting in--using geeky / nerdy Julian. The text told the story, while the graphics elaborated on the untold story. In fact, throughout the novel, the graphics add a rich level of detail that give depth to the story. In particular I liked how two characters might be talking, but the one in the background will have his/her "balloon" partially covered, letting the reader know that there is more going on here that she should be aware of, but she doesn't need to know everything. It is this sort of attention to detail that will make this graphic novel one that all readers, not just the reluctant ones, come back to time after time. In fact the first readers I'll recommend this to are the gifted kids--this book does an excellent job talking abut fitting in, dealing with confidence / lack thereof, and school ability vs knowledge.

I give this an enthusiastic 5 on the Picnic Basket scale.

Peacham Library Co-Director

Kim said...

Fabulous graphics with extreme details. Reluctant boy readers interested in gadgets will love this book. I give it a four out of five.

miss t said...

I think The Secert Science Alliance is a great book that shows the nerdy hero in every story can be a hero. Even after you read it you still want to read more of this action packed grapic novel.I hope the author will keep writing more because this is great!

M Battista said...

A school bully, a "dumb" jock and a nerd are members of a secret society...The Secret Science Alliance. Their crazy cool inventions and adventures are sure to delight both avid and reluctant readers. It must have taken Eleanor Davis a long time to complete such a rich and detailed graphic novel. I only hope the sequel won't be a long wait for the kids who are clamoring for the next installment. I give it a 4.5.

Denair, CA

Christina said...

Julian Calendar is a delightfully nerdy, scientific genius who unsuccessfully tries to hide his intelligence and establish a new reputation at his new school. Fortunately for us, he finds new friends who appreciate his talents and equal him in concocting outrageously funny contraptions used mostly for practical jokes. But when a historical relic is in danger, the Secret Science Alliance must use all their wits to stop an evil scientist who is using their inventions against them.
I can’t wait to share Eleanor Davis’s graphic novel The Secret Science Alliance and the Copycat Crook with my middle school students. My eighth grade daughter devoured it in one evening, as did I. The plot is fast paced, even though the intricately detailed illustrations make you want to stop and linger on each page. The lessons of friendship, believing in yourself and taking pride in your intelligence are obvious, but do not overshadow the fun of the story. I hope this isn’t the last we hear from The Secret Science Alliance. I give this a 5 on the Picnic Basket scale and will recommend it enthusiastically to my reluctant readers, my gifted students, and everyone in between.

Megan B. said...

"The Secret Science Alliance and the Copycat Crook" by Eleanor Davis was a quick and entertaining read. I loved the layout and the illustrations in this graphic novel. I love the fact that it is a graphic novel. I believe graphic novels are one of the best ways to get children interested in reading. I also loved the message of the book as portrayed in the three childrens' struggles to fit in or feel smart enough. I give this a 4 out of 5.

Nikki Mills, Indian Creek Library, CA said...

I enjoyed reading The Secret Science Alliance and the Copycat Crook. I am not a fan of Graphic Novels, but the detailed graphics enhance this story. When first introduced to Ben you assume he is just another dumb jock and Greta as just another bully and Julian as just another typical nerd; as it often happens first impressions can be wrong. A fast read, with great details to draw reluctant readers in. 5 out of 5

Jen Vincent said...

Loved it!!!! 5, 5, and 5!!!!!

I loved comics when I was a kid but it's been hard for me to read graphic novels as an adult because I seem to have such a hard time following the story and taking it all in to understand what is happening. Some of them seriously give me headaches. This book...and I so hope it becomes a series...is awesome!

This is the story of Julian, a complete science nerd who really feels like he doesn't fit in but is excited at the chance to move to a new school where no one will know him. He doesn't really fit in all that well at his new school until two unlikely scientist/inventors uncover his true science nerdy-ness and they become a team of inventors. Complete with secret clubhouse, an evil scheming adult and a mystery, this book rocks!

I really enjoyed the illustrations and already shared this book with one of my eighth grade students who really connected with the text and thought Julian was a great character.

Jennifer Vincent
K-8 Sp. Ed. Teacher
District U-46, Illinois

Anonymous said...

I have a very difficult time reading graphic novels. I am sure that part of it is my age,the pages are to busy for me. I gave it to one of my students who is always carring around a graphic novel. He was so excited to be given the book. I look forward to sharing his response with you. I am sure that he will have a positive response to this book.

Catherine said...

I love this book. I never thought a graphic novel would be good to use in a classroom, but this one is fantastic. I love the story line about a nerd trying to be like everyone else and discovering that everyone else is not what they seem. Some people are really smart and are afraid to show it. Plus, this is a good way to get my reluctant readers not only to enjoy reading, but it brings up a lot of great discussions.

I rate this a 5.

Catherine Yezak, Special Education Teacher, Marquette Area Public Schools, Marquette, Michigan

ahslibrarian said...

The Secret Science Alliance and the Copycat Crook is a very interesting graphic novel for younger readers. It is a tightly organized and well-planned effort that includes many extras that explain the environment and inventions of the team members. Although necessary, it did take a few pages to set the background before delving into the action packed pages that made it too hard to put down.

Thanks to its profusely illustrated pages, the SSA accomplishes what many graphic novels do not. It says more when it says less and keeps the pages turning. The action is top rate and the reader is not weighted down with the details as a requirement for progressing through the story. The illustrative content is also of a high quality and the panels are laid out in such a way that younger readers will have no trouble gaining the experience necessary for migrating to more mature graphic novels.

One of the most interesting facets of the SSA is the fact that the team is comprised of two older kids and one younger member. The uncommon team of characters finds common ground in science, and their wide range of abilities constantly complement one another and are directly related to the success of the story. It is this sort of teamwork that crosses the boundaries of jocks, skaters, and nerds and gives the book a broad appeal.

Wise librarians serving the upper elementary and middle schools will include the SSA in their graphic novel collection. In every sense, Eleanor Davis has created a great experience that will keep readers begging for more and maybe even challenge them to begin their own local science alliance.

5 of 5

John Parker
Media Coordinator
Andrews High School
50 HS Drive
Andrews, NC 28901

Anonymous said...

While Graphic Novels are popular at our school, this particular book is not circulating well. I found the book to have too much information crammed on the pages and the vocabulary so high, I don't see a reluctant reader being pulled in. I hope to get more feedback as soon as I can get some actual "takers" to give it a try.

Picnic Rating: 2

Julia Pitau
Denair Charter Academy
Denair, CA

dmuldawer said...

What a fun book! While I'm not a fan of graphic novels, a number of my students are and I'm always looking for something to appeal to my lower-level readers.

This has terrific illustrations and I love the labels and the self-deprecating humor. It's also wonderful to see the stereotypical jock and popular girl take on new roles in their secret science society.

This book is a must have for classroom libraries!

Dawn said...

So what do you get when you mix three unique kids with the freedom to play and create? Well, inventors, of course. Any reader could identify themselves in one member of this trio. Davis demonstrates a nice blend of abilities which become the inventors assets as a team. I feel the science fans will enjoy this book. My only downside came from the parental portrayal throughout the book. It seemed that the parents were no where to be found, to busy for their child, or overly obsessive.

I, personally, enjoyed the book. As for circulation from my library, I am unsure of how popular it will be. I find that I am neutral on this book because I don't feel it has high circulation appeal. I would love to be proved wrong, though!!!!

Dawn VanLerberghe

Barbara Leitschuh said...

Prior to reading this graphic novel I was not a fan of them. Much to my surprise I truly enjoyed this book. It has a complex storyline with likable characters that quickly pull you in and have you cheering for them. This book is full of details that have you studying every page so that you don't miss a thing. This will be a popular book and I look forward to reading more adventures of The Secret Science Alliance. I give this book a 5.

Stacy B. said...

This was my first attempt at reading a graphic novel and I enjoyed reading the first 1/4 of it. The details in the illustraions and text were amazing and I was surprised that I kept noticing more and more. I passed this along to our school librarian who was thrilled to recommend this to a few students she had in mind. We both feel it will be well-read!

Jennifer said...

Great graphic novel! Many of my students saw it on my desk and can't wait for it to get into circulation. I love the way the female character was placed into a scientific situation. Great timing to get book in circulation before science fair time. This will be a fun and easy read for boys and girls - 4th grade and up. I hope there are more to follow.

4.5 out of 5
K-5 Library Media Specialists

Miss Cannon said...

This graphic novel is very witty and fun to read. I think that the boys in my class will really enjoy this book. The illustrations are very detailed and filled with comical text. I can't wait to get my students hooked on this story!

kgb said...

I'm not usually a big graphic novel fan, but I really liked this one. The author busts some stereotypes showing that the "bad girl" and the "jock" can be science nerds too. The kids use their brains to invent cool gadgets (the author includes plans so kids can build their own) and work together to solve problems. The kids will love the intricate drawings--I looked at many of them several times to get all the details, and the fast pased adventure story.

Anonymous said...

The Secret Science Alliance and the Copycat Crook hit its mark. It will get many things accomplished...get reluctant readers in, open to more reading and create paths for book communications. I give this a 5!

Mrs. Horne said...

I am not normally a fan of graphic novels but I thought this was very well done.

To get a more fair opinion I gave this to one of my students who constantly reads graphic novels and he loved it. He said it had a good storyline that kept his interest. Following these three friends on their adventures was entertaining and he said he particularly liked the illustrations.

Based on his feedback, my Picnic Basket rating would be a 5/5.

Lindsay Horne
New Kent Middle School
New Kent, VA

MR said...

I thought that this book was a great read and a perfect book to share with those readers that have a hard time finding a book they "love". The illustrations we awesome and really allowed for better understanding. I can't wait to share it with a student and see their reaction to this book. I would give the book a 5.

6th Grade Teacher
Kimberly Middle School, Idaho

SunshineFamily73 said...

If it has taken me awhile to review this book it is because it kept disappearing. First I found it in my 9-year old daughter's room and then I would find it in my 7-year old son's room.

The first few pages I thought it seemed too crowded at that children would give up on it easily finding it too chaotic. I cannot speak for all children but my own certainly were not bothered. In fact, they loved going over each section again and again as there seemed to be new things they found.

This graphic novel encourages vocabulary expansion- the kids WANT to know what the words mean and they remember because it is tied into the story line.

Others mentioned wanting to find more in this series- I agree! The characters were interesting and quirky. They take turns getting down in the dumps but there friends pull them out- there is always a positive side to everything. Lessons learned without being preachy and a good balance of good guy/bad guys. The lack of whiny sarcasm is noted as well, very positive vibe.

Loved it! Want more! I recommend for 2nd grade and up!

Heather Hill said...

"The Secret Science Alliance and the Copycat Crook" is a funny, fast-moving graphic novel with wonderful graphics. Each time a student reads it, they will find more detail in the graphics that add to the story. Characters are also likable and interesting. Students will want more of this series. Can't wait to see what the Secret Science Alliance gets into next!

I give this book a 5 out of 5.

Heather Hill, Reading Specialist
Enterprise Elementary
Woodbridge, VA

juli said...

I love graphic novels, my nephew loves graphic novels and my class loves graphic novels. With that being said my "Secret Science Alliance" book will soon be in tatters! This was a fun read with great characters and a lot more substance than most graphic novels. We too are hoping for more books in the series.

A big thumbs up; 5 out 5
5th grade teacher

Cori said...

I thought this was a great book. Kids will enjoy the brilliant colors and images.

Hopefully the author will continue writing stories because the characters because I think it's a great way to get kids interested in reading.

Sarah said...

4 out of 5

I enjoyed this book a lot. The only reason I'm not giving it a 5 out of 5 is that I felt the illustrations were sometimes so cluttered as to be confusing, but I enjoyed the storyline and the characters.

I think all readers can find something to relate to in each of the protagonists, from Julian the nerd to Greta the "troublemaker" to Ben the "dumb jock." Completely aside from the fun storyline that encourages creativity and originality, the protagonists are drawn with enough depth to keep them from being stereotypes.

6-8 librarian

Anonymous said...

I am not a big fan of graphic novels; however, if more graphic novels were well written as "The Secret Science Alliance and the Copycat Crook" I would change my mind about them. The story is interesting and will keep students entertained. I give this book 5 out of 5.

Anonymous said...

I have shelves of my own books behind my circulation desk. The students at my school enjoy looking through them, and often ask if they can borrow one. The ones they ask for the most are the new Diary of a Wimpy Kid and The Secret Science Alliance! It seems that there is something for everyone in this graphic novel. Many students relate to one of the "outsiders" and revel in their adventures. Struggling readers, looking for a book to match their interest level, will find this book to be a good match.

Barbara Winterberger
School Librarian
Henry Lomb School #20
Rochester NY

D.A. Tyo said...

The Secret Science Alliance and the Copycat Crook by Eleanor Davis is one cool graphic novel! Ever since I read this one and book talked it, I have not seen it on my shelves! My sixth graders are passing this one around like crazy!

Eleven year-old Julian Calendar feels like he never fits in at school. So when his parents announce that they are moving and that means a new school, he is thrilled beyond belief. A new start! He will have a chance to start fresh...to be ‘normal’ like everyone else. Soon, he befriends Greta who always wears her bicycle helmet and Ben who never seems to stop playing basketball. These three end up having a lot in common.

Julian, Greta, and Ben are all interested in science and creating their own wild inventions. They even have a hideout which at first seems like a plain wooden shed. Wait until your eyes feast on their real secret lair! The three of them form The Secret Science Alliance and begin to create their wild inventions.

But then a revered scientist steals their inventions. The Secret Science Alliance must use their smarts and science knowledge to stop the Copycat Crook.

This story is funny, inspiring, and filled with science and wacky inventions. I thoroughly enjoyed the most detailed of the drawings in the book. There were several that were so intricate that I spent several minutes looking and reading and finding the pertinent information located in each one. My students are doing the same.

I think this book will be one that will fall into the hands of readers of all interests. It is one that makes the reader root for the underdog…and don’t we all love an underdog!

This is a solid Picnic Basket rating of 5!

angel believer said...

The Secret Science Alliance and the CopyCat Crook is a fun graphic novel. It is a must have. The story is engaging and a fast read if you don’t pour over the wonderful illustrations. Julian Calendar is very smart and thus is a nerd to the other kids. When his family moves, he chooses to blend in with the other students. Lucky for us, two of his classmates see him at a speech at the museum. The three become friends because of their interest in science. They have a hideout where they build the inventions that they have drawn in their invention notebook. Both girls and boys will enjoy this book. I give this book a 5.

Reviewed by Mary Lou D.
literacy facilitator
Bella Vista Elementary
Cottonwood Heights, UT

Molly said...

This graphic novel tells the story of three very different kids: a “jock”, a “tough girl”, and a “dork” who come together based on their love for science, which all three are trying to keep secret at school. Although I was happy to see kids portrayed as science lovers who typically aren’t portrayed that way, I wish the characters would have broken out of their public stereotypical images more. This would be a good suggestion for the reluctant reader as the brightly illustrated graphics and chunked up text make it less threatening. Graphic novels are a bit much for me; I tend to get a headache trying to take everything in, but I do think kids would enjoy it. Although I think both girls and boys would read it, this felt more like a boy book to me, which is a bonus, since it can be tough to pull them into reading. Once I got about ¾ of the way through, I think I honed my reading strategies enough to process it well. I am passing this on to my District’s 4th-7th grade librarian, as I think her kids will enjoy it. I give this a 4/5.

Molly Matchak, Librarian
Hickory High School

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