From School Library Journal
Grade 5-7-Best friends Travis and Freddy are looking forward to their promised 13th-birthday vacation. So, when Travis's dad loses all his money on a disastrous gambling bet, the boys decide to win it back. They con their way aboard a flight to Las Vegas, planning to use Freddy's high-tech inventions to beat the blackjack tables at the Excalibur Casino. In Vegas, they connect with Sam, a savvy cabdriver who is out to get Johnny Large, the mob boss who framed her father. Since Large runs the Excalibur, Sam agrees to help the boys with their scheme. Wearing Freddy's cyber-rigged glasses, she places blackjack bets according to instructions relayed from his specialized computer program. Unfortunately, her phenomenal winning streak attracts the attention of Large and his goons, who don't take kindly to being flimflammed. Can Sam and the boys get out of Las Vegas alive? There is a lot of middle-school insult dialogue and body humor and several instances of insensitively stereotyped peripheral characters, including a hard-of-hearing elderly couple. There is also a disturbing focus on dishonesty. The boys use the cyber-glasses to cheat on a math test as well as to rig the blackjack game. They also steal Travis's dad's credit card, lie to airline and hotel personnel, and hack into the casino computer system. While this is all played for laughs, there is no indication of either conscience or consequences, beyond the fear of getting caught. While the raucous comedy and sarcastic dialogue may attract some readers, there are many better choices available.-Elaine E. Knight, Lincoln Elementary Schools, IL
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Gr. 5-8. After his dad gambles away the family home, 12-year-old Travis and his best friend, Freddy, con their way onto a plane headed to Las Vegas. Freddy is a math whiz, and he devises a way to win at blackjack. With the help of a young woman named Sam, the boys manage to win big, only to run afoul of the diminutive mob boss Johnny Large. Although tiny himself, the mobster has some huge henchmen who dangle Freddy and Travis (in their underpants) from a hotel window before sending them on their way. Not to be defeated, Freddy and Travis turn around and rescue Sam and an FBI agent, before heading home with the money. The pace is fast, and everything is played for laughs. Travis, who is a bit dim, and his genius buddy make an amusing double-act, and an omniscient voice, which is frequently interjected into the story, provides some funny asides. This is a winner. Todd MorningCopyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved