One of the most charmingly engaging new characters in the modern chapter-book scene.

—Kirkus Reviews

Phineas L. McGuire

Awards and Nominations

  • California Young Reader Medal Nominee
  • Dorothy Canfield Fisher Book Award Master List (VT)
  • Georgia Children’s Book Award Nominee
  • Grand Canyon Reader Award Nominee (AZ)
  • Land of Enchantment Children’s Master List (NM)
  • Maud Hart Lovelace Award Master List (MN)
  • Nevada Young Reader’s Award Nominee
  • NYPL 100 Titles for Reading and Sharing
  • Pennsylvania Young Reader’s Choice Award Nominee
  • Sunshine State Young Reader’s Award Master List (FL)
  • Virginia Readers’ Choice Award Master List
  • William Allen White Children’s Book Award Master List (KS)
  • Bank Street Best Books of the Year
  • Eleanor Cameron Golden Duck Award
  • Kansas State Reading Circle List Primary Title
  • MSTA Reading Circle List
  • Nutmeg Children’s Book Award Nominee (CT)

In the Highly Scientific Notebooks of Phineas L. MacGuire, Frances O’Roark Dowell gives us ‘Mac,’ a curious young scientist who Kirkus Reviews calls “one of the most charmingly engaging new characters in the modern chapter-book scene.”

There have been four books in the Phineas L. MacGuire series. They are available individually, as well as in a boxed set, from your retailer of choice.

Here’s what you need to know about Phineas L. MacGuire, boy-scientist extraordinaire, aka Mac:

1. He’s allergic to purple, telephone calls, and girls, and can prove it.

2. He’s probably the world’s expert on mold, including which has the highest stink potential.

3. He does not have a best friend. He does, however, have an un-best friend, who he does not — repeat, not — want to upgrade to best friend status.

Here’s what reviewers are saying about the Highly Scientific Notebooks of Phineas L. MacGuire:

“[P]roves that kids can be smart and funny.” —Publishers Weekly

“Full of amusing faux-scientific observations as well as actual scientific facts, this lighthearted…book should appeal to any young reader who can stand a little mold.” —Booklist

“This is a funny, easy read that will entertain both average and reluctant readers. The characters are thoughtful, genuine kids who are creative in their problem solving and truly understand the meaning of friendship.” —School Library Journal


Readers who enjoy Suzy Klines Herbie Jones (Putnam) and Horrible Harry books (Viking) will find Mac appealing.

—School Library Journal

In Phineas L. MacGuire… Erupts!, Phineas Listerman MacGuire (a.k.a. Mac) does not have a best friend. He does, however, have an un-best friend. And he does NOT, under any circumstances, wish for this un-best friend to become his friend. But the teacher does not know this, and has paired them together as science fair project partners. Worse, this un-best friend wants the project to be on dinosaurs, which is so third grade. But is Phineas going to convince this un-best friend to do the project on mold instead when he doesn’t even want to talk to that person?

Using repetitive phrasing and lots of lists (from project ideas to facts Mac learns about science and Ben), Dowell brings to life a likable, nerdy kid who thrives on scientific thinking. A departure from Dowell's Dovey Coe (2001), this book targets a younger audience; the type is large and well spaced, and black-and-white art playfully captures the characters, including the quirky Mrs. Tuttle, who apparently loves frogs.



In Phineas L. MacGuire… Gets Slimed!, Mac’s goal for the school year is to be the best fourth grade scientist ever. It’s a tall order, but he’s confident that he can achieve his goal, especially since Aretha has asked him to help her earn a Girl Scout badge by creating the mold that produces penicillin. After all, who knows more about mold than Mac? And how many fourth graders can say that they’ve reproduced penicillin? But the school year gets a lot busier when he has to manage Ben’s class president campaign and deal with his new babysitter, Sarah Fortemeyer, the Teenage Girl Space Alien from the Planet Pink. How is he supposed to focus on mold now?

Full of amusing faux-scientific observations as well as actual scientific facts, this lighthearted, illustrated chapter book should appeal to any young reader who can stand a little mold. For those whose affections for the stuff are more pronounced, several mold-related experiments conclude.



In Phineas L. MacGuire… Blasts off!, Mac is less than up-to-date on planetary happenings. If he’s going to be the best scientist in the fourth grade, Mac has to set his sights a little higher. Well, actually a lot higher: Outer Space. But, space camp is expensive and Mac’s mom says he can go only if he earns the money himself. But, where is he going to find enough money for a week on Mars (or a pretty close simulation there of)?

Mac's third adventure is a refreshingly upbeat story, with a strong emphasis on cooperation. Mac and his friends are a cohesive team, relying on each other's skills and talents to make their project a success. Adults, while mostly peripheral to the action, are also shown in a positive light. The dialogue is light and humorous, particularly Mac's first-person comments on dogs, parents, science, and life in general.

—School Library Journal


And in Phineas L. MacGuire… Gets Cooking!, Phineas L. MacGuire — scientist extraordinaire — has a new chore: cooking dinner every night. He may be a genius, but he knows nothing about following a recipe. A pinch? A dash? A smidge? This doesn’t seem very scientific to him. But he’d better learn quickly if he and his friends are going to win the $10,000 Bake-Off prize. And to make matters worse, Evan Forbes, the school bully, has taken a liking to Phineas’s brownies… too much of a liking. Cooking is kind of like chemistry. So maybe this whole recipe thing won’t be too bad after all. But can Phineas keep his cool in the kitchen?

Here’s how Phineas L. MacGuire was introduced to a ton of new readers in 2014

In 2014, General Mills asked Frances to write a fourth installment in her popular Phineas L. MacGuire series so the company could include it in boxes of Honey Nut Cheerios cereal as part of its Spoonful of Stories campaign. The result was Phineas L. MacGuire… Gets Cooking, a book that was released in three parts by including small paperback books in boxes of cereal. So in this way millions of kids across the country were introduced to Phineas over breakfast. Frances’s publisher also released the book in the regular way so that readers who missed an installment or who don’t like cereal could keep up with the latest adventures of Phineas and his friends.