Itch: The Explosive Adventures of an Element Hunter by Simon Mayo; Splinter, 432 pages ($16.95). Ages 8 to 12.
The periodic table of elements and chemistry class in general may seem a lot more interesting after reading this hugely entertaining, suspenseful debut novel from a popular British disc jockey. Fourteen-year-old Itchingham Lofte, Itch for short, has a strange obsession: He’s obsessed with the periodic table of elements and is collecting the elements one at a time. After a phosphorous explosion in his bedroom burns off his eyebrows, his mother demands he move his collection to a backyard shed but in the meantime he stores some in his backpack, where arsenic-laced wallpaper meets the steam of a greenhouse during a school field trip and makes the entire class sick. Then Itch’s element supplier gives him a very heavy rock, which may be element 126, a radioactive element that would be very valuable to governments, corporations and terrorists alike. The author crafts a marvelous portrait gallery of characters, including the horrible chemistry teacher named Flowerdew, along with a thrilling tale of heroism as Itch, battling radiation sickness, decides to take his dangerous rocks where no one will ever find them – or so he hopes. A sequel is set for publication next year.
– Jean Westmoore
Books in Brief: Itch
- 405 Letter: Court should uphold birth control coverage
- 152 Letter: Women, not their employers, should pay for birth control
- 137 Letter: Hatred of Obama is richly deserved
- 90 Letter: SAFE Act is flawed, needs to be repealed
- 89 Making the case for Core, King rejects argument that education standards are too difficult