Flood: Race Against Time, by Aaron Rosenberg (2016)

Flood: Race Against Time, by Aaron RosenbergThis is the first title in the S.T.E.M. Squad series – adventures about children learning to use Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math to solve real-world problems. The five teens are starting Grade 9 when their schedule changes for Science, and they are sent to a new classroom. It turns out to be an experimental class funded by a rich donor interested in getting kids real-life experience with STEM principles. On their first field trip, they head out to see the flood zone in person, and a series of mishaps leaves the teens stranded in a flooded home, where they have to figure out how to save themselves and get rescued, using STEM. So far, so good. In book one, the story focuses primarily on Malik and Jules, but we also meet Christopher, Tracey, and Ilyana. Together they are a racially diverse mix, which is great, but other than Malik and Jules, character development is pretty thin in this book. Ilyana is a “petite thing”, we learn almost nothing about the Latina Tracey, and Christopher is a grades-obsessed Asian whose academic motivations are the result of a deal with his father so he can stay in his band. There were at least two major errors in the book that I spotted – Rosenberg introduces an astronaut chimp and then refers to him to as a monkey, and (spoiler alert) water instantly flooded the first floor of a house even though they’d already opened the windows. I’d think that much water moving so quickly that it overwhelms several doors and windows would likely take the house off its foundation before getting to the second floor, no? This is a chapter book with a few forgettable illustrations, and it includes an appendix of comprehension questions and questions for discussion. Throughout the book, definitions are given for concepts and words such as engineering and hydrometeorology, so it will have some appeal to younger readers who enjoy adventures and learning new things. It’s a bit lengthy as a chapter book for younger readers though – this one runs about 200 pages. I enjoyed the kids’ unlikely adventures, but it’s hard to look past the errors. I hope further titles in the series improve because I really like the idea behind the S.T.E.M. Squad, but this one falls short of what it could be. My thanks to publisher Barron’s Educational Series for the advance reading copy provided through NetGalley in exchange for my honest review.
At the time of this writing, there’s only one (very critical) review of this book on Goodreads: http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/28999595. For another opinion, see the Kirkus review.


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