How to be a Genius Kid by Waldo Pancake

How to be a Genius Kid – at a glance

The School Reading Lists’ five word review: Memorable, fun, cool, science, genius.
Children’s book title: How to be a Genius Kid.
Children’s author: Waldo Pancake a.k.a. Jim Smith.
Genre: Children’s fiction, illustrated.
Published by: Faber Childrens.
ISBN: 9780571380046.
Recommended for children aged: 5-8 year-olds.
First published: Paperback June 2024.
This children’s book is ideal for: Less confident readers in KS1 and KS2.

How to be a Genius Kid by Waldo Pancake

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Our review:

Winner of the Roald Dahl Funny Prize, Jim Smith, is back with his new series, How to Be a Genius Kid. The book starts with the end of a school week where two characters, named Graham and Flea, become unlikely friends on their walk home. Somehow, they decide to make a fact book together, which, of course, turns out to be this book.

Smith manages to fill the plot with scientific facts, squeezing them implicitly into silly back-and-forth banter, in speech bubbles that tend to run out of space and evade its speaker. Comical misspellings and text-ese language present science as mind-bogglingly fun, the explicit message being that becoming clever is “coool, guys”.

The doodled characters and scrawled dialogue are relatable for children in their simplicity, rendering this book a brilliant resource for motivating a love of reading and drawing while offering accessible and highly memorable science information.

Our verdict:

Aimed at children aged 5-8, this book is an effective high-low option for children who feel intimidated by ‘older’ books, and although technically a chapter book, it doesn’t feel like a chapter book!

Many thanks to Faber Children’s for the review copy.

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If you like How to be a Genius Kid by Waldo Pancake you might also like: Cat Kid Comic Club by Dav Pilkey, The 13-Storey Treehouse by Andy Griffiths and Terry Denton, Brain-fizzing Facts: Awesome Science Questions Answered by Dr Emily Grossman and Alice Bowsher and Amazing Facts Every 8 Year Old Needs To Know by Katherine Brereton and Steve James.

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About Lucinda Brocklehurst

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Lucinda is an artist, home educator and student based in Gloucestershire. To support her developing career in children’s publishing, she volunteers in literary roles and works alongside children and young people as a childminder. She is a part-time student with Open University, studying a BA in Childhood and Youth Studies and hopes to continue onto an MA in Children's publishing. Linkedin | Reviews by Lucinda Brocklehurst