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The Invisible Fran: Franny K. Stein - Mad Scientist    by Jim Benton order for
Invisible Fran
by Jim Benton
Order:  USA  Can
Aladdin, 2005 (2004)
Hardcover, Paperback
* * *   Reviewed by Hilary Williamson

What I immediately like about this Mad Scientist series is that it stars a girl, Franny K. Stein, not the usual male hero. It's a chapter book, with amusing black and white illustrations on every page (I rather like one where Fran is experimenting on her teddy bear in her lab) and chapter titles like 'Wire You Looking at My Robot That Way?'

The Steins live in suburbia in a 'pretty pink house with lovely purple shutters' on Daffodil Street. It's normal except for an upstairs bedroom that houses Franny's lab, equipped with mad scientist gear, like 'an eyeball-removing machine'. One day Fran decides that she shouldn't keep all this fun to herself, but must share her obsession with her classmates. Her canine lab assistant, Igor, helps. Fran's comments on other students' hobby presentations aren't exactly endearing, as none of them relate to mad science. So she builds a two-headed robot. When that doesn't fire up the others' enthusiasm for her passion, Fran plants suggestions. Soon, too many cooks are making robot soup, with disastrous consequences.

How will Fran rescue the situation? It takes help from her friends, involving their despised, unscientific hobbies, and Fran learns a little tolerance for others' interests along the way. Franny K. Stein - Mad Scientist is serious fun, much better than the average chapter book series.

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