6 Fun Facts About The Smartest Kid in the Universe

If you love the hilarious adventures from the Mr. Lemoncello’s Library series, you’re in luck! Author Chris Grabenstein just released a brand new book. It’s called The Smartest Kid in the Universe, and it’s filled with quirky, over the top villains, treasure hunting, and jelly beans that make you super smart!

Jake McQuade is a 12-year-old kid who’s all about video games, having fun, and hanging out with his friends. He’s the kind of kid who effortlessly charms everyone as he struts down the halls, and is perfectly happy using his phone as a source of endless knowledge rather than putting much effort into studying. One night, everything changes for Jake when he accidentally eats some mysterious jelly beans that turn him into a genius! Those jellybeans were actually experimental ingestible information pills that the scientists at his mom’s work conference were still in the process of studying.

What if you could learn everything just by eating jellybeans?! Meet the Smartest Kid in the Universe and find out in this fun-packed new series from the Bestselling Author of Escape from Mr. Lemoncello’s Library and coauthor of Max Einstein!

12 year old Jake’s middle school is about to be shut down–unless Jake and his friends can figure out how to save it. When Jake spies a bowl of jellybeans at the hotel where his mom works, he eats them. But those weren’t just jellybeans, one of the scientists at his mom’s conference is developing the world’s first ingestible information pills. And THAT’S what Jake ate.

Before long, Jake is the smartest kid in the universe. But the pills haven’t been tested yet. And when word gets out about this new genius, people want him. The government. The mega corporations. Not all of them are good people! Can Jake navigate the ins and outs of his newfound geniusdom (not to mention the ins and outs of middle school) and use his smarts to save his school? BONUS! Includes extra brainteasers to test your smarts!

The Smartest Kid in the Universe
AUTHOR: Chris Grabenstein
PUBLISHER: Random House Books for Young Readers
DATE: December 1, 2020

With his newfound smarts, Jake becomes an expert-level problem solver and can spew all sorts of random facts and speak random languages he’s never learned. This makes him very in-demand, and not always to good people! His crush wants him to join the quiz bowl, the creator of the jelly beans wants to study him, and the FBI wants to use him to solve cases. While Jake learns to deal with his genius-level brainpower, things get a little out of control, but all he really wants is to help save his middle school, which is on the verge of getting shut down.

The Smartest Kid in the Universe is a fast-paced, hilarious read that we think you’ll absolutely love. Want to know more about the book? We’re so excited to share that author Chris Grabenstein is sharing 6 Fun Facts about the book, including how his least favorite candy turned out to be his biggest inspiration!

Author Chris Grabenstein Shares 6 Fun Facts About The Smartest Kid in the Universe:

FACT #1:

Guess where I found the inspiration for the character of Jake McQuade, the seventh-grader who ends up as the smartest kid in the universe? That’s right. In a crosswalk at 79th Street and Amsterdam Avenue in New York City. (Wow. You knew that? Have you been eating jelly beans?)

I was out for a walk in my neighborhood and saw an extremely cool, likable kid, probably twelve or thirteen, crossing the street. This guy was so cool, he was chatting with one bud on his cell phone while knocking knuckles with another he passed in the crosswalk.

From that one image, I created a kid who loved going to school — not to learn stuff but to hang out with his friends and to make sure everybody was having a good day. When the story starts, Jake isn’t exactly lazy. He’s just exertion challenged.

(Image via @smarties)
FACT #2:

This story was inspired by some of my least favorite candy. Smarties. I never really loved seeing those cellophane-wrapped rolls of pastel-colored (and kind of flavorless) sugar tablets in my trick-or-treat bag.

And once, when I was in London shooting a TV commercial in my days as an advertising writer, I had some English chocolate Smarties. They were sort of like M&M’s but with a milk chocolate center that tasted more like dishwater. Weak dishwater.

But, regardless of what my taste buds said, my goofy brain said, “What if, when you ate Smarties, you became a smarty?” I did some research (one of my favorite parts of being an author), hoping to find some science to make my fictional idea more believable. Voilà! I came across a TED Talk (short, smart lectures) by Nicholas Negroponte called “A 30-Year History of the Future.”

Negroponte, the founder of the MIT Media Lab, has predicted all sorts of high-tech devices and technologies (even though lots of “smart” people scoffed at him when he made those predictions): e-readers, face-to-face teleconferencing, touch screens for phones and computers, GPS navigation for cars.

What was his one big prediction for the next thirty years? Ingestible knowledge! “You’re going to take a pill and know English. You’re going to take a pill and know Shakespeare.”

Or, if you’re Jake McQuade, maybe you’ll just eat some very special jelly beans.

(Photo Credit: European Grocery)
FACT #3:

Why jelly beans?

Because I love ’em. And like I said, doing research is one of my favorite parts of the job. Especially if Jelly Belly jelly beans are involved. Did you know there are Jelly Belly jelly beans that taste like Krispy Kreme doughnuts? And if you combine a Hot Chocolate (or Chocolate Pudding) with a Candy Cane, you basically get a chewier version of Peppermint Bark? Yes, I do love my research.

Plus, I wanted to create a fun new kind of “magical bean.” Jack had his plain old dry beans that turned into a beanstalk. Jake has jelly beans.

(Photo via @bookshelfmomma)
FACT #4:

Math teachers are super cool. When I needed some help figuring out a complicated imaginary number problem that would turn into a pirate treasure map (you’ll have to read the book), I put out a cry for help on social media. A bunch of fantastic math wizards responded, and with their help, I ended up looking way smarter than I actually am. Hmmmm. Maybe math teachers are my magical jelly beans!

FACT #5:

Making up names for characters can be a lot of fun! For instance, the nefarious principal in this book is named Mrs. Malvolio. Why? Because she is named after a word you might find on a vocabulary list someday: malevolent, which means “wishing to do evil to others.” If you have an evil character, give her an evil name. Right, Disney’s Maleficent? Your name means “causing harm or destruction, especially by supernatural means”? No wonder you grew up to be an evil witch.

And Heath Huxley, Mrs. Malvolio’s equally nefarious uncle? I wanted to give him a name with a lot of “H” (heh) sounds in it. Like when you breathe out. Because Mr. Huxley has extremely bad breath. We’re talking dog breath–level bad.

(Photo Credit: sozypencils.com)
FACT #6:

Intelligence is a superpower you can give yourself. You don’t have to get bitten by a radioactive spider. Just study hard, read, and soak up everything your teachers have to offer. And if sugar helps you focus, eat a few jelly beans.

Need even more adventure in your life? Enter to win this amazing book stash in our Holly Jolly Giveaways event!

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