Through the Looking Glass Children's Book Reviews

Itch Rocks

Itch Rocks

Simon Mayo
Fiction  Series
For ages 12 and up
Sterling, 2014   ISBN: 978-1454905103

It all began when Itch’s father gave him an old chemistry book. Itch became interested in the periodic table and began to collect the elements. His search for the elements was insatiable, and his family members had to become used to the nasty chemical smells that emanated from his room. They even began to take the small fires and explosions for granted. It wasn’t even that surprising when Itch accidentally poisoned his classmates with arsenic gas.

   Then Itch acquired some rocks that turned out to be a hitherto unheard of element, an element with the atomic number 126 on the periodic table. The element was rare and highly radioactive and was therefore priceless. It could be used to create energy, which would have been fine, but it also could be used to create weapons of mass destruction. It became clear to Itch that element 126 was just too dangerous and that no one should have it, so, at great risk to himself, he hid it at the bottom of a deep well.

   Now Itch is back in school. He is well again after almost being killed by radiation sickness, and he and his sister and cousin are trying to get back to leading a normal life. This is not easy to do because all three of them are being guarded by MI5 agents night and day. Though the existence of element 126 was kept secret, word has leaked out and there are people out there who want to get their hands on it, and therefore want to get their hands on Itch. He has to be protected at all costs. The bodyguards follow the teens around school and nor surprisingly the other students keep their distance. The other kids don’t know about element 126, but they do know that Itch was involved in something pretty dramatic.

   At times the whole bodyguard business seems extreme, but then some Russian speaking men try to kidnap Itch and they almost succeed. Not long after, one of the students at school finds out that one of the senior girls, who is new, is not who she says she is. The imposter is outed and later Itch finds out that the woman, Shivvi Tan Fook, is a prison escapee who was convicted of multiple crimes. She also used to work with Dr. Flowerdew, the man who tried to kill Itch and steal the element 126 rocks. It would seem that the MI5 people are right. There are many people out there who know about element 126 and who are willing to do just about anything to get their hands on Itch so that they can force him to tell them where the rocks are.

  Soon after everyone finds out who Shivvi is, she strikes. She creates a diversion at Itch’s school, and while everyone is busy there, Shivvi goes to the home of Mr. Watkins, a teacher that Itch is close to. She draws Itch and Jack there, takes them captive, and then forces Itch to tell her where the element 126 rocks are. Itch has no choice but to reveal the rocks’ hiding place, and soon he and Jack are in Shivvi’s car being driven to the place where Itch hid the rocks not that long ago. When they get there, Shivvi manages to bring the rocks to the surface, only to have them stolen from her by Dr. Flowerdew.

   In this action packed novel, Itch’s story continues, and we come to appreciate how brave and resourceful he is. A reluctant hero who is forced to do unthinkable things, Itch knows that his instincts are right about the rocks, that no one should be allowed to possess them. It is fascinating to see how he, and his allies, fight long and hard to do the right thing for the sake of everyone.