cover image The Smartest Kid in the Universe (The Smartest Kid in the Universe #1)

The Smartest Kid in the Universe (The Smartest Kid in the Universe #1)

Chris Grabenstein. Random House, $16.99 (304p) ISBN 978-0-525-64778-2

After seventh grader Jake McQuade, a dedicated slacker, gobbles a jar full of jellybeans, he discovers that they were an experiment to convey “Ingestible Knowledge.” Thanks to an unprecedented combination of ingredients, he’s now crammed full of amazing new facts, figures, and trivia. His new knowledge assists him in joining the school’s quiz bowl team, searching for a legendary lost pirate treasure, and being recruited by the U.S. government to solve top-secret cases. It may also help save dilapidated Riverview Middle School from closure as part of the principal’s shady land development scheme. With this fast-paced romp, Grabenstein (the Mr. Lemoncello’s Library series) delivers a heartfelt, tongue-in-cheek tale packed with trivia. Jake, who is white; his Kojak-quoting best friend Kojo Shelton, who is Black; and his crush, academic-minded Grace Garcia, who is Latinx, make for an entertaining trio, facing off against rival quiz bowl teams and corrupt school administrators with equal aplomb. Episodic in feel, this amusing adventure also works as a humorous love letter to public education and dedicated teachers. Ages 8–12. (Dec.)