Book Review: The Contagious Colors of Mumpley Middle School

Book Review: The Contagious Colors of Mumpley Middle SchoolThe Contagious Colors of Mumpley Middle School by Fowler DeWitt
Published by Atheneum Books for Young Readers on September 3rd 2013
Pages: 272
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Something strange is happening to the sixth grade—and it’s up to student scientist Wilmer Dooley to crack the case in this fast-paced novel full of humor and mystery.

If there’s one important thing Wilmer Dooley’s dad always says, it’s this: “Where are my car keys?”

Okay, maybe not that. He also says: “Observe!”

Wilmer has always known that the greatest science comes from the keenest observations. So when he observes his classmates looking a little green…and orange...and chartreuse-fuchsia polka-dotted...he knows that it’s up to him to find the cause of this mysterious illness—and the cure.

But with his arch nemesis, Claudius Dill, hot on his heels; the eagle-eyed biology teacher, Mrs. Padgett, determined to thwart his plans; and a host of fluorescent classmates bouncing off the walls at increasingly dangerous speeds, can Wilmer prove he has what it takes to save the sixth grade from a colorful demise before it’s too late?

The Contagious Colors of Mumpley Middle School tells the story of a boy named Wilmer Dooley, whose aim is to win the 6th grade science fair. So when a literal plague falls into his lap, he cannot help but find the cure for it. To help the now colorful students of Mumpley Middle School, he must find out what is causing them to change colors and become so overactive. Seemingly unaffected, Wilmer must take all the clues he can find to solve the mystery and save the day – with the perk of maybe winning the science fair.

His archnemesis Claudius Dill wants the prize for his own and is willing to do anything to get it, even if it involves inventing a fake cure and sabotaging Wilmer's own progress. I thought the plot was a bit silly from the start and the clues were right out there right from the beginning. Wilmer's family was a bit out of this world, his own father being a scientist. I found it strange and rather disturbing that his mother cooked with inaminate objects like shoes or medication like athelete's foot cream. Yet the whole family ate these meals, without dying nonetheless.

Beyond that is an over-the-top teacher who hates Wilmer for no reason beyond him always answering questions correctly and wanting to use her own lab in after school hours. In fact, she prefers his archnemesis Claudius who is obviously a bad student and kind of a bad kid in general, always doing what he can to steal the show from Wilmer.

As much as I wanted to like this book, I just felt disconnected from the plot. Having never enjoyed science myself, I couldn't connect with Wilmer as a character and I felt it was way to unrealistic in every aspect, even for a fantasy/science fiction book. There may be students out there that love science and the idea of a colorful plague needing to be solved.

Final Verdict: Althought The Contagious Colors of Mumpley Middle School is not quite the book for me, but I can see how it can appeal to some students. I just felt it was all a bit over the top for most of the book.

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