Miss Lionheart and the Laboratory of Death
The offer: Get into the car or I'll blow your brains out,” was made with such eloquence and conviction Lilly couldn't exactly refuse...
... And you can't either. Yes, Miss Lionheart and the Laboratory of Death is here, so hijack yourselves into mad scientists' territory, duck the gelignite, avoid the Acme fuses. Do whatever you need to, just don't miss out — it's more than your life is worth!
"a fun read for any YA mad scientist, secret spy, or evil super-villain" PD Friend
"Packed with ingenuity and exciting twists" Michelle Child
"Rabid rodents, a fun read!"
Lee Murray (BSc, MSc (Tech) Hons, MMS (Dist)) and well known editor and author of Battle of the Birds
Miss Lionheart and the Laboratory of Death from award-winning writer A J Ponder is the first part of a science fiction adventure intended for middle grade readers.
The story opens with the heroine, Miss Lilly Lionheart, snatched off the street by Mr Big, the CEO of GKS Laboratories and the least important crime lord in the World Wide Web of Evil. Bundled into his underground bunker, Lilly is being forced to genetically engineer a dreadbeast for Big’s Spring Catalogue of Evil. She has no choice in the matter, not if she plans to live to see New Year. But even if her science skills were up to creating an arachnid-reptilian hybrid in the short weeks before Christmas, her social skills are not, which makes managing her rag-tag scientific team somewhat problematic. As if that isn’t enough, someone seems to be watching her, someone other than Big’s ruthless security thugs and their ubiquitous cameras…
A former scientist myself, and slightly nerdy, I wish this book had been written when I was younger. Just as Lewis and Tolkien opened our imaginations for fantasy, Ponder’s is the kind of tale to prompt an interest in science in its young readers. Just how long would a squirrel-snake hybrid need to gestate anyway? What might happen if you added a socialisation gene to a deadly mutant prototype? And what exactly is the best way to administer an antivenin? But unlike many science fiction stories written for children, Ponder’s story is refreshingly inclusive with high-achieving protagonist Lilly teamed up with Squidge, a brilliant 14 year old with Asperger’s Syndrome and a doctorate in Biochemical Genetics, and every day teens Missy and Brian, only there because they volunteered to be pet shop staff. This mix of personalities is a recipe for hilarity and Ponder doesn’t disappoint, taking full advantage of the conflict, as they struggle to achieve the impossible. Given the plot, this could have been a dark tale, but Ponder can’t help herself, peppering the story with accurate, laugh-out-loud descriptions and playful word-craft. There are thugs with ‘bulldog expressions’ for example, and a Rottweiler ‘that would eat your babies for breakfast and come back for a second helping of postman.’ There is no swearing, as you might expect in a book for this age-group, but the expletives are worth checking out. ‘Emetic exsanguination’, and ‘rabid rodents’ are a couple of my favourites.
A classic good-versus-evil tale with a deliciously nerdy appeal and sophisticated vocabulary, Miss Lionheart and the Laboratory of Death fills a gap which, in my view, has been largely ignored by publishers, targeting highly-competent middle grade readers and providing them with an engaging and challenging adventure without the mature themes typically seen in young adult titles. Primary and intermediate school teachers should make a note of this one for their extended reading groups. Parents will like this book too with its teeny 99c price tag, and underlying humour. Happily, the embedded hyperlinked glossary covers any highfalutin scientific terms that might not be understood from the context, making it ideal for out loud bedtime reading without the need to dust off the school text books. A must-read for precocious pre-teens.