For Ages
8 to 12

The Smartest Kid in the Universe, Book 1 is a part of the The Smartest Kid in the Universe collection.

"Chris Grabenstein just might be the smartest writer for kids in the universe." --James Patterson

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! Don't miss the next Smartest Kid in the Universe—Genius Camp!

An Excerpt fromThe Smartest Kid in the Universe, Book 1


Patricia Malvolio, the new principal of Riverview Middle School, was giving a special, after-hours tour of her building to a very important guest: Mr. Heath Huxley.


“This school is in terrible condition!” said Mr. Huxley.


“I know,” giggled Mrs. Malvolio. “Isn’t it marvelous? It’s perfect for our plans.”


The lockers were dented and rusty. Overhead, fluorescent lights sputtered in their tubes, pleading to be replaced. Paint peeled off the cinder-block walls in chunks the size of potato chips.


“What’s that smell?” asked Mr. Huxley, covering his mouth and nose with a dainty silk handkerchief.


Mrs. Malvolio sniffed the air.


She was tempted to say Your breath, since Mr. Huxley’s never smelled minty or fresh.


“Tuna fish salad?” she suggested. “Stinky cheese? Moldy pizza? It’s hard to tell. The refrigerators in the cafeteria are . . . unreliable.”


Mrs. Malvolio tugged down on the canary-yellow blazer that matched her canary-yellow blouse. The tugging caused her necklace--three rows of big, multicolored beads--to clack.


“Now, as I told you,” she said, “Riverview is currently considered the worst middle school building in the district. Given the new budget cuts, the city will be forced to close one middle school this year. I suspect it will be us.”


She led the way into her office. Mr. Huxley went to the window to admire the view of the river.


“This is magnificent, Patricia.”


“I know. It’s why this school is called Riverview.”


“And what will the city do with this marvelous property once they shut down this dilapidated excuse for a school?”


“Oh, I suppose they might auction off the land to the highest bidder.”


“Who will also be the smartest bidder,” said Mr. Huxley, stroking back his slick black hair. “The one who understands how truly valuable this property is.”


“Yes, Uncle Heath,” said Mrs. Malvolio. “They’ll probably sell it to you. And then you’ll pay me that very generous finder’s fee we discussed when I applied for this principal position.”


“Indeed I will, Patricia.”


They both laughed maniacally.


It ran in the family.



Jake McQuade wasn’t the smartest kid at Riverview Middle School, but he was definitely the coolest.


The school itself, on the other hand, was kind of shabby.


The place hadn’t fallen apart all at once. If it had, people might’ve done something. Riverview’s decline had been slow and steady. It took time and neglect. No one ever thought to repaint the cinder-block walls. Or to replace the lockers, most of which were too bent out of shape to be locked anymore.


“We try,” Mr. Lyons would tell Jake. “We try.”


Mr. Charley Lyons was the school’s vice principal, a social studies teacher, and the basketball coach. He’d been at Riverview for over twenty years.


“But the new principal?” He shook his head. “ ‘Le zumba el mango,’ as my grandfather used to say.”


Jake never knew what Mr. Lyons was saying when, all of a sudden, he dropped a little Spanish. Jake would’ve had to learn Spanish to do that. And seventh grader Jake McQuade wasn’t big on “learning stuff.” He came to school to have a good time and hang with his friends. If he needed to actually know anything important, he could look it up on his phone.


He stopped by the bathroom to check his look in a mirror. Black hair, blue eyes, and fair, freckled skin. It was a good look. And lately Jake wanted to look good.


Because of Grace.


Grace Garcia!


“How’s it going?” Jake said to just about everybody he passed as he cruised up the hall. He was so cool, he could chat with one friend on his cell phone while using his free hand to knock knuckles with a dozen more.


Jake’s best friend was Kojo Shelton.


Kojo was a science geek who spent a lot of time streaming cop shows. He called it his extra-credit homework. “Because I’m going to be a detective when I grow up,” he’d say, “I need to know forensic science and TV detectives.”


Recently, Kojo had stumbled upon an ancient show called Kojak on some obscure cable rerun channel. He’d become obsessed with the famous TV detective. Kojo even adopted Kojak’s famous catchphrase, “Who loves ya, baby?”


“We practically have the same name,” he’d told Jake. “He’s Kojak and I’m Kojo. Of course, he’s a bald, old Greek dude and I’m a handsome, young Black dude, but, hey--we both like Tootsie Pops.”


“I don’t,” said Jake. “Too much work sucking through that hard candy shell to get to the Tootsie Roll.”


“For real? Jake McQuade, you are the laziest kid in the world. You know that, right?”


“We’re all good at something, Kojo. Slothfulness? It’s my superpower.”


Kojo was kind of skinny and always wore the style of thick-rimmed glasses that couldn’t get broken when you played sports.


“You wanna go hang in the cafeteria?” asked Jake. “I’ve got that new Revenge of the Brain Dead game on my phone. Mr. Keeney will never miss us.”


Mr. Keeney, who taught math, was Jake and Kojo’s homeroom teacher. He usually spent the first fifteen minutes of every school day with his feet propped up on his desk, his chair tilted back as far as it could go without tipping over, and his eyes closed.


“This is homeroom,” he’d said once. “If I were home, I’d still be sleeping. So keep quiet. I need a nap.”


“No thanks, man,” Kojo told Jake. “I want to go talk to Mr. Lyons in his office. I need his help on an extra-credit social studies project.”


“Is it about the history of this school’s vice principal having his office inside an old janitor’s closet complete with a mop sink?”


“Nah. Everybody knows the answer to that one: the boy’s bathroom on the second floor leaks through the ceiling of the vice principal’s office. Has for years. If Mr. Lyons used that office, his hair would be wet. All the time.”


“And why are you doing another extra-credit project?”


“Because, Jake, even though I could get by on my looks, I prefer to be smart, too. Going for another straight-A report card.”


Jake shrugged. “Straight Cs are fine by me.”


“You need help on your science homework?”


“Nah. I need to go slay some zombies.” 


As Jake ambled along the hallway, he saw Grace Garcia hanging a poster on the wall.


Jake wished there were a bathroom mirror nearby.


There wasn’t.


Grace, another seventh grader, was, without a doubt, the smartest student in the whole school. Jake also thought she was the prettiest. Of course, he’d never tell her that.


“Hey,” he said.


“Hey,” she said back. Grace was somehow related to Mr. Lyons. Her mom and dad had emigrated from Cuba during the mid-1990s. Mr. Lyons’s side of the family had moved to America way earlier, but Grace still called him “Uncle Charley.”


“Whatcha doin’?” Jake asked. Yes, he definitely had a way with words when talking to girls.


Grace nodded at the poster. “Trying to find two new teammates for our Quiz Bowl team. Last year we came in third. This year we’re going to win! Comerme un pan!”


Jake nodded. And smiled. And had no idea what comerme un pan meant. Judging from the way Grace grinned when she said it, though, it was probably a good thing.


“I lost both my teammates from last year,” Grace continued. “One got into Chumley Prep. The other transferred to Sunny Brook.”


“Do you have to know facts and stuff to be on the team?” asked Jake.


“Uh, yeah,” Grace said with a laugh.


Jake nodded. “Bummer.”


A gigantic eighth grader named Noah “No Neck” Nelson strode up the hall. “What’s that for?” he said, jabbing a thumb at the poster.


“Our Riverview Pirates Quiz Bowl Team,” Grace answered cheerfully. “A friendly but fierce competition against all the other middle schools in our district.”


“Quiz Bowl?” snorted Noah. “That’s stupid.”


He lunged forward to rip the hand-painted poster off the wall, but Jake blocked his move.


“Hey, Noah--speaking of bowls, you ever have one of those taco bowls at Taco Bell?”


“Oh yeah, man. Those are awesome. You can eat the bowl. It’s a taco.”


“I know. Isn’t that amazing?”


“Totally. I like those bread bowls at Panera, too. With the soup inside a scooped-out loaf of bread? I like any bowl you can eat.”


“Me too, bro.” Jake balled up his fist, Noah balled up his, and they knocked knuckles.


“Catch you later, Jake,” said Noah as he strolled away contentedly. “Oh, I almost forgot: you should try the meatball pizza bowl at Olive Garden.”


“Thanks for the tip, bro!” Jake called after him.


“No problem, man.”


“Thank you,” whispered Grace when Noah was gone. “I only made the one poster. Not to be a pesado, but if Noah had ripped it up, I’d be en un lío.”


“Yeah,” said Jake, even though, once again, he had no idea what Grace meant. “So, uh, Grace--are you trying to teach me Spanish?”


She grinned. “Maybe. Un poco. Don’t forget: I saw your report card. You could use a little help in the foreign languages department.”


“Hey, I got a C in French. Or, as they say in France, ‘un C.’ ”


Kojo came strutting up the hall. “I love it when a plan comes together,” he announced, dropping another catchphrase from another ancient TV show. “Guess what, Grace? Your uncle Charley is going to take me down to the fallout shelter for my extra-credit report.”


“Really?” said Grace. “That’s sort of off-limits. . . .”


“This school has a fallout shelter?” said Jake.


“Uh-huh,” said Kojo. “From the nineteen sixties. You know--the Cuban Missile Crisis. Mr. Lyons’s grandfather was the custodian back then and told him all about it. The entrance is in the Custodian’s Closet.” Kojo squinted at the Quiz Bowl poster. “You doing that again?”


“Definitely,” said Grace.


“Put me down as a maybe,” said Kojo. “I have to check my schedule. They’re running Columbo reruns on the Sleuth channel this month.”


The bell rang for first period. Well, it kind of clanged like an alarm clock somebody had knocked to the floor one too many times. That meant it was time for homeroom.


“Let me know if you can be on the team, Kojo,” said Grace, hurrying off to class. “You’d be awesome!”


“Will do.”


Kojo and Jake headed in the opposite direction, to Mr. Keeney’s class.


“You really might join the Quiz Bowl team?” asked Jake.


“Sure. If, you know, it doesn’t interfere with basketball, my extra-credit social studies project, or my TV cop shows. When you make it to the top academically, like Grace and I have, Jake, you need to send the elevator back down for the other folks.”


“I have no idea what that means, Kojo.”


“It means if you’re smart, you have to help people like you, who, you know, aren’t so, uh, academically gifted.”


“Gee, thanks, Kojo.”


“Hey--who loves ya, baby?”


“Are you going to keep saying that all day?”


“I might, baby. I might.”

Under the Cover