Summer Camp Science Mysteries, vol. 5-8

MissingCuckooClockLerner Graphic Universe continues their Summer Camp Science Mysteries in volumes 5 through 8. The basic format of these stories is a quick introduction to a selection of campers and counselors, a mix of hijinks and science experiments, a slightly spooky mystery, and a scientific solution followed by experiments you can do at home, a glossary, and additional facts.

The Missing Cuckoo Clock teaches about the science of gravity as well as a gentle lesson on admitting mistakes. The campers learn a number of facts about gravity and how to perform several science tricks with this force as well as learning a little humility and kindness. The Whispering Lake Ghosts features spooky voices and is, appropriately, about the science of sound. There are lots of scary thunderstorms, a lost-in-the-woods episode, and some interesting facts about how sound, especially thunder and echoes, works. The Great Space Case solves the mysteries of the stars and the mystery of who’s cheating on the astronomy competition/scavenger hunt. The kids get to see an eclipse and learn a lot of different facts about astronomy. The Yucky Duck Rescue tackles the issue of pollution and the kids go on a scavenger hunt to find out what’s wrong with the water on their lake and how they can help fix it.

Each of these mysteries has enough plot and dialogue to carry the plethora of scientific facts and experiments without getting too bogged down or reading like an infodump. The didactic lessons on the side about cheating, friendship, and kindness are lightly done and feel realistic within the setting of the stories. The science is explained in simple terms and the science experiments are easy to duplicate. The titles have two different artists, Der-Shing Helmer and German Torres, but their styles work together smoothly, so there’s no confusing transition. The artwork is a little reminiscent of Raina Telgemier’s work, with strong colors and lines, crisp images and settings, and lots of expression in the kids’ eyes. The various characters are easily distinguishable and there’s plenty of mild humor in their facial expressions and behavior. The settings are neatly done, showing a beautiful wilderness area for the camp without getting in the way of the stories. Some of the illustrations of the experiments within the stories make it a little hard to pick out the details, but the text clears up any confusion. The weakest of the four volumes is The Yucky Duck Rescue. The “solution” to the pollution problems is rather simplistic and the farmer is an overly stereotypical character. The story as a whole isn’t very realistic, but kids will want to read the adventures in order, so I wouldn’t skip it if you’re buying the whole set.

These aren’t great literature, but they do an excellent job of explaining scientific concepts in a fun and relatable way. The first four volumes are very popular at my library; kids who enjoy science, mysteries, and comics can’t get enough of this fun mixture of the genres. If the library bound titles are out of your budget, Lerner’s paperback editions are quite sturdy and have held together well for us. These are titles even parents who dislike graphic novels will be pleased to hand to their kids and they would make great additions to the science curriculum for a school.

Summer Camp Science Mysteries, vol. 5-8
by Lynda Beauregard
#5 Missing Cuckoo Clock
illustrated by Der-Shing Helmer
ISBN: 9781467707336
#6 Whispering Lake Ghost
illustrated by German Torres
ISBN: 9781467707343
#7 Great Space Case
illustrated by Der-Shing Helmer
ISBN: 9781467707350
#8 Yucky Duck Rescue
illustrated by German Torres
ISBN: 9781467707367
Lerner Graphic Universe, 2013
Publisher Age Rating: 8-12