The Hypnotists Book One by Gordon Korman

Strange things tend to happen around Jax Opus. The best basketball player can't score when Jax chants to himself, "miss miss miss". His therapist will really try to jump out of the window just because Jax jokingly says so. His best friend Tommy calls it luck, but Jax discovers that he was actually descended from a long line of hypnotists and he can bend people's minds when his talent was noticed by Dr. Elias Mako.

Invited to join Mako's elite institute, Jax learns how to control his abilities and hones his skills and soon becomes the star pupil. Everything seems to be going Jax's way, until one day, an old guy came up to Jax and told him that Dr. Mako is extremely dangerous and is going to manipulate Jax to do his evil bidding. That can't be true, Jax thought. Dr. Mako is a model citizen. Everyone knows that Dr. Mako "has devoted his life to New York City education and is an inspiration to every single one of us". Wait. Where has he heard this description of his teacher before? From everyone, that's where. Somehow everyone says the exact same line when they describe Dr. Mako. Now why is that, and could it have something to do with...hypnotism?

This is the first book in Gordon Korman's new series. There is always an ease in the way Korman writes that gets readers into his stories effortlessly, and in this new book, we are introduced to another one of his believable teen characters. Jax is a likable hero with an extraordinary talent, but more importantly he has a good heart. Along with his loyal buddy Tommy and his funny parents we have a great cast of characters.  The ending is surprising touching for a light read. Though the plot is simple and straightforward, it will still hold readers' interest. Korman is still one of the best authors to recommend to young readers who haven't quite found their reading bug yet.

Thank you, Scholastic, for providing an advanced review copy! The book will be published this August. Check out the dedicated webpage
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Periodic Tales by Hugh Aldersey-Williams

Elements, to most people, mean things like oxygen, gold, iron, tin, stuff like that.  Easily identified, popularly discussed stuff.  We may rarely see them in pure form, but we know they are there.  But there is far more to them than that.

Molybdenum.  Strontium.  The town in Sweden that produced eight hitherto unknown elements from one mine, just lying there.  When aluminum (aluminium? Both are right; the discoverer changed his mind a couple of times, and it could have been alumium) was considered a precious metal, not a throwaway for pop cans and cheap cars.

Periodic Tales tells the human story of the discovery, uses or practical lack thereof, and odd value of nearly all of the elements on the periodic table, and explains why in many cases it took so long for them to prove useful. 

Told in a bunch of thematic sections (money, power, things like that), Aldersey-Williams brings out the untold history of so many elements we might otherwise never think about.

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