I accidentally ran into this book series, otherwise Phineas L. MacGuire would have remained an unknown for me. While at the local library, lost in the shelves of children’s novel section, I rounded the corner and my knee connected with shelf #2. Down to the ground went six books. With the lady at the front desk craning her head to see what I was up to, my eyes looked down to see Phineas L. MacGuire staring up at me in three different poses. …Erupts! from 2007; …Gets Slimed! from 2010; and …Blasts Off! from 2011. I decided this was fate and checked them out – due back in three weeks.
Once home and before I had time to begin reading, I checked out the author’s web site (Frances O’Roark Dowell) and also found Phineas has his own web site. Phineas is a fourth grade scientist – he thinks like one, acts like one, and loves doing experiments. His website is completely science based and well worth your time.
The lower word count found in each book, nice large type, and a few tidy plot points certainly make it feel like a third or fourth grader may want to pick up these books. The series is very much for lower middle grade in every way but one. Phineas narrates the stories himself and often uses long sentences and large words to get his point across – just what you would expect from a budding scientist. This makes the readability level higher (5.0-5.3) than many recent Newbery winners. Not a concern, just a caution.
PUBLICATION DATE:2007-14 LEVEL: 5+ WORD COUNT: under 20,000 each
PLOT (From Renaissance Learning): Each of the books centers around a science theme. For …Erupts! it’s building a volcano for a science fair. Fourth-grade science whiz Phineas MacGuire is forced to team up with the new boy in class on a science fair project, but the boy’s quirky personality causes Phineas to wonder if they have any chance of winning.
…Gets Slimed! When his new best friend, Ben, decides to run for class president, fourth-grade science whiz Phineas MacGuire reluctantly agrees to be his campaign manager in exchange for help with his latest experiment, cultivating exhibits for a mold museum.
…Blasts Off Hoping to earn money to attend Space Camp, fourth-grade science whiz Phineas MacGuire gets a job as a dog walker and then enlists the aid of his friends Ben and Aretha to help with experiments using the dog’s “slobber.”
FIVE THINGS TO LIKE ABOUT Phineas L. Macguire
- If you love science, you’ll love Mac (Phineas’s preferred name) and his scientific methods. Directions for the experiments described in each story are included in the back pages for you to replicate.
- The penciled illustrations scattered throughout the books are charming and complement the story.
- The words are there for a purpose and include life lessons like cooperation, second chances, and goal setting.
- The humor and the decision making of a fourth grade mind is beautifully brought forth. In one scene Mac decides getting his shirt dirty is worth the five minute lecture he’ll get from his Mom.
- Reluctant readers may find this the perfect series to begin opening up to more reading.
The above stated release dates of this series is not a typo because the fourth Phineas L MacGuire book will be arriving this year. Phineas L. MacGuire… Gets Cooking will take a unique route to the bookshelf. It will be released in three parts first through Cheerios Spoonfuls of Stories Program, then later in the year as a full blown hardback.
If you have a new middle grade reader, this series is sure to please and get them started off on the right foot.
I am allergic to fifteen things. My Mom says this is not true, that I’m only allergic to two things, peanuts and car hair. But I am a scientist, and she’s not.
Check the links to other Middle Grade novels over at Shannon Messenger’s Marvelous Middle Grade Monday post.