Itchingham Lofte fancies himself an element collector, a past time which has lead to so many unfortunate explosions in his home that his sister Chloe is prepared with a fire extinguisher, and his mother eventually makes him take his collection outside. After he obtains some antique wallpaper from a dealer named Cake, he takes it to school. Unfortunately, his class spends the morning in the hot, damp green house, and the paper releases arsenic gas that makes all of his classmates sick and closes the school for a couple of weeks! After his father (who works offshort on an oil rig and doesn't come home much) arranges a summer internship at a mine for Itch and his cousin Jack (a girl), Itch runs in to Cake again and gets a few more rocks from him. When he shows a strange one to his teachers, one, Flowerdew, decides to "send it to Switzerland to be tested", when in reality he is planning on selling it to the highest bidder because it's radioactive and could power a lot of things. Jack and Itch find Cake again, but he's dying of radiation poisoning and gives them more of the very dangerous rocks, with directions that Flowerdew must NOT have them. Along with Chloe, the children set off to steal back the rock and hide the others. Will it be enough? Apparently not, since there is a sequel, Itch Rocks, coming out in the UK on 28 February 2013. Unsure when it will be released in the US-- most likely next year.
Lots of science AND lots of action. The science never bogged down the story or felt pedantic. The information about the elements was interesting, and Itch's constant fiddling with things gets him into interesting trouble. (Who knew that such a little bit of arsenic could cause so much trouble?) I liked Itch, the supporting characters were all fun, especially his beleaguered parents.