Thursday, August 17, 2006

Rick Brant Electronic Adventures

In the early 1970s, my parents found part of an old juvenile book series in a garage sale and bought them for me. They turned out to be fourteen of the Rick Brant Electronic Adventure series and they literally set me on fire. I loved science and engineering even as a kid and dreaded the day I would finish the last one. Now my son is eight and my parents gave me the books which were still in their basement. We started reading them straight away. That let me to Amazon, Powell, Google and the very handy Abebooks to see if I could buy a few more. Happily, a reasonable sum and a bit of research netted 23 of the 24-book series plus the interesting Science Projects.

The last book in the series, The Magic Talisman, goes for a cool US$1500 these days. Only 500 were printed. That is strange, considering the series sold into the millions of copies. Publishers are certainly fickle. Fortunately, OCLC's WorldCat service shows that four US libraries have the book, so it should be available via inter-library loan.

Hal Goodwin, a US government journalist who involved himself in radically different aspects of science during his varied career, wrote the series under the pen name John Blaine. He was amazingly prolific, writing 43 books, including some children's non-fiction.

I was pleased to find that other fans of the series banded together to get some books reprinted. Spindrift Books, a reference to the island home of Rick and his family, has recently reprinted three hard-to-find books. The main fan site even has detailed errata for the series.

My son is thoroughly enjoying the series and I am pleased that he won't suffer the loss of many of the books as I did. I am enjoying reading them, especially the ones that are new to me. They provide a wonderful opportunity to talk about science, geography, cultures, logic, observation. We are looking forward to making some of the Science Projects, especially after seeing the warning, "Note: These experiments have not been written with the modern reader in mind. Some may be dangerous and should not be undertaken." All right! That reminds me of the time I showed some friends at a dinner party how to make ozone by splitting a lamp cord and shoving it into a sink full of water while it was plugged in. (You can smell it.)

I highly recommend these books to anyone with a boy between the ages of 8 and 12.

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