Launching a new series, Buckley (the Sisters Grimm books) offers a charming and funny tale of underdogs saving the day. Jackson Jones, a cool kid at Nathan Hale Elementary School, suddenly finds himself ostracized when he's saddled with 14 pounds of highly magnetic orthodonture ("Friends turned their backs when he walked by. Teachers cowered in the lounge, hoping to avoid eye contact"). With no social activities to occupy his time, he starts snooping around school and uncovers its secret: it's the undercover hideout of NERDS, a secret group of underage spies. Even more shocking, the NERDS are the biggest outcasts in the entire school, their allergies and eccentricities turned into assets. Though the spy kids concept is a familiar one in print, TV and film, Buckley has a flair for exaggerated humor, throws in some nice touches (including a peevish security system that interacts with readers) and wisely presents the NERDS through the eyes of Jackson, who spends much of the book denying his own social ostracism. Even the more broadly drawn archetypes are fleshed out, making this a perfectly fun and clever read. Ages 8-12. (Sept.)[Page 59]. Copyright 2009 Reed Business Information.
Gr 5-7--An action-packed, tongue-in-cheek take on the world of superheroes and villains. Jackson Jones, 11, transitions from Mr. Popular to complete loser in the time it takes to be fitted for braces with headgear. He soon happens upon the underground headquarters of a group of outcasts called NERDS, who, with the help of technology "upgrades," turn weaknesses like allergies into superpowers, fighting crime in secret until the age of 18. While trying to escape, Jackson himself is accidentally upgraded--his braces become equipped with tiny nanobytes capable of morphing into any object. Asked to join the NERDS, Jackson quickly learns that not everyone wants him around--especially those he used to pick on. Unity must come quickly, however, to foil the evil Dr. Jigsaw, whose mission to reunite the continents of the world will lead to massive destruction. The absurd story line humorously hits on some oft-ignored topics--what is the difference between a goon, a henchman, a minion, and an assassin anyway? Readers will delight in these unexpected touches. The pacing is quick and the action is plentiful--kids will almost hear the sound effects as they read. The book itself is treated as a top-secret NERDS case file, complete with increasingly ridiculous security-clearance requirements (thumbprint, saliva sample, money). Angular, black-and-white illustrations highlight main characters and pivotal moments. NERDS brings a worthy message to the fore--that uncool kids can grow up to be anything but. Funny, clever, and thoroughly entertaining, this title should be popular.--Travis Jonker, Dorr Elementary School, MI[Page 107]. Copyright 2008 Reed Business Information.