Mad Scientist Academy Reviews

msa2-jacket-green-mockupThe Weather Disaster


Dr. Cosmic and his Mad Scientist Academy students are back for a second outing that is truly out there. The green-faced, wild-haired Dr. Cosmic has invented a wearable weather balloon and a CHAOS (Cooling/Heating Airflow Operating System) machine and is unnervingly optimistic about their success. As will no doubt be the pattern throughout the series, the students must absorb a crash course in this curriculum so that they can save both the professor and the day. Even adults reading the book aloud at school or at home will learn a few things. The colorful comic strip format is varied and dramatic. Not all readers will linger over the occasional info-packed box (“The Water Cycle,” “Types of Precipitation,” etc.), but the facts are made optimally interesting through dramatic and funny illustrations. Drama, humor, color, and format are indeed the main elements that make this and the previous volume so enticing—along with the occasional “KABOOM!” and “KA-BAM!” VERDICT Science fans and comics enthusiasts will dive right into this, but don’t deprive other readers; there’s enough fun here for anyone.


In this sequel to The Dinosaur Disaster (2015), the young monster students of Mad Scientist Academy learn about weather conditions, thanks to Dr. Cosmic’s newest invention, the Cooling/Heating Airflow Operating System, or CHAOS. The story opens on Dr. Cosmic embarking on a test run of his Sky Suit, a wearable weather balloon, which offers a nice opportunity to explain how air temperature and pressure affect weather. Then Dr. Cosmic takes the kids inside to show them CHAOS, but, true to its name, the machine malfunctions, and it wreaks lots of weather havoc. The kids are left to investigate their school’s new wacky climate, and in the process, they learn some meteorological fundamentals, such as the water cycle, precipitation, thunderstorm formation, and tornadoes. The suspenseful adventure and lively artwork, featuring appealing kid monsters and an accessible, panel-heavy layout, will appeal to elementary-school readers looking for a fun read, and they’ll likely pick up some helpful earth science concepts at the same time. Engaging and educational.


Having survived disastrous dinosaurs in the first series installment, students at the Mad Scientist Academy now attempt to comprehend the mystery of weather. Six students make up the class assembled outside the laboratory: an amphibious creature, a werewolf, a robot, a vampire, a giant insect, and a monster resembling Frankenstein’s. Dr. Cosmic, whose flaming red hair recalls another cartoon scientist beloved by children, is ensconced in a wearable weather balloon, ready to test its efficacy. His colleague, meteorologist Nimbus, works the controls. As the sphere spins into the atmosphere, readers follow his progress and study charts to learn how clouds form and what causes wind, rain, and snow. Sequential panels move the plot forward and present information, while double-page spreads portray climactic moments, such as when the students try to apply what they have learned to correct the flood in the greenhouse and the snowstorm in the pool house by creating a tornado with the CHAOS machine. (The rear endpapers spell it out: Cooling/Heating Airflow Operating System.) Characters use their particular attributes to solve problems and help one another. Adults will appreciate the knowledge imparted in this STEM-friendly series as well as the encouragement to question, measure, and experiment; children will be attracted to the appealing caricatures and the cyclone wreaking havoc on the cover. With outlandish situations rendering scientific concepts memorable, McElligott has concocted a winning formula for learning as entertainment.


Weather is the focus of the current curricular unit at the Mad Scientist Academy, so Dr. Cosmic dons an inflatable weather balloon Sky Suit and heads into the atmosphere, reporting back on the air masses that generate the winds that determine his course, and on the formation of the clouds around him. His students (a mix of monsters that incudes Frankenstein and a werewolf ) listen attentively, but the real test of their learning comes when CHAOS, his Cooling/Heating Airflow Operating System, goes on the fritz and the class has to figure out a fix.

As half the students go off to the greenhouse (where it is now raining) and half to the pool (now frozen over in an ice storm), they apply what they’ve learned about the water cycle and the effect of heat on air pressure and precipitation to determine that they’ll just have to destroy CHAOS with a tornado, which they now know how to engineer.

It’s pretty much impossible to discuss the Academy without referencing the venerable Magic School Bus and, fortunately, the MSA does not suffer by comparison. The graphic novel format, with tidy frames and several well-placed splash pages, is an excellent vehicle for organizing the lesson, and the orderliness of the visual presentation makes it easy to go back and review material. The send-ups on stock monsters are cleverly played, adding humor without sacrificing content. A page of climate and weather notes extends the information, and endpapers diagrams of the Sky Suit and CHAOS walk the line between science fact and fun.

No need for MSA kids to take a field trip: what could be more interesting than school?

Dinosaur-coverThe Dinosaur Disaster

KIRKUS REVIEWS  (★ Starred review)

An informative but hair-raising tour of a rather-too-realistic dinosaur exhibit gives six new students a memorable first day at Mad Scientist Academy.

Barely have the young folk—a notably diverse group of kidlike monsters and nonhumans—met their new teacher Dr. Cosmic (green skin, orange goatee, goggles, lab coat) than the action starts. Soon they’re narrowly avoiding obliteration from a flaming model meteor, stepping hastily away from oozing lava, and fleeing a set of robotic dinos inadvertently switched to “Live” mode. Meanwhile, they’re also learning about fossils, mass extinctions (mutters Dr. Cosmic “Note to self: turn down the lava”), dinosaurs in various Mesozoic periods, pterosaurs, and the similarities between theropods and modern birds. The scholars are aided in their enquiries by pocket-sized, utterly cool “Mad Scientist handbooks,” which fold out into arrays of helpful screens, touchpads, tools, and gadgets. Having filled his sequential panels and full-page illustrations with escalating, destructive antics done up in a tidy style that makes them all the more hilarious, McElligott closes with a thumbnail gallery of the exhibit’s prehistoric residents and a link to an associated website. Aside from being, you know, mad, Dr. Cosmic is plainly a colleague of Ms. Frizzle, and the mix of pithy banter, tumultuous field-trip mishaps, and science fact is as familiar as it is winning. Fans of the Frizz will be dino-delighted.

Mad fun. (Graphic science fantasy. 7-9)


The seven new students at Mad Scientist Academy include a werewolf, a robot, and other odd creatures; and the school is pretty strange, too. Appealing comic book art takes readers through the kids’ first day, in which they receive an unusual, but informative introduction to the world of dinosaurs. Dr. Cosmic is their brilliant, sometimes bumbling, teacher, who leads the group through a highly interactive prehistoric exhibit. The students follow clues to solve a dinosaur puzzle, learning plenty along the way. Prehistoric facts are provided through the automated handbooks that each child receives, and when the mechanical dinosaurs become activated, the kids must use research and their own attributes to avoid danger and complete the assignment. The Frankenstein-ish “Ken,” for example, uses his monstrous strength to tear down a tree that successfully tempts an Iguanodon into revealing a clue. Pencil, ink, and digital illustrations carry the story through effective use of panels, word balloons, and cartoonish drawings. Characters have distinct looks and expressions, lending specific personalities to each of the students. The illustrations provide a light tone aided by occasional humorous asides from the kids. Larger panels depict a Tyrannosaurus attack and other action scenes, while the informational segments are neatly set off as handbook entries. VERDICT Like Joanna Cole and Bruce Degen’s “Magic School Bus” series (Scholastic), the use of a school setting, a quirky teacher, and wild hands-on learning situations provides an engaging blend of humor, adventure, and information.–Steven Engelfried, Wilsonville Public Library, OR


Jurassic World hits theaters on June 12 and this madcap comic book is sure to be the perfect antidote for little dino-enthusiasts who just can’t get enough. Things get out of hand on the first day at Mad Scientist Academy and a group of young monsters are tasked with restoring order before a T-Rex wrecks Dr. Cosmic’s lab. With plenty of information packed in and students using their smarts to safely navigate this adventurous world, parents will have no qualms indulging when their kids demand to read it again.