A Wonderful book by Daniel Pinkwater. It is written for kids about about 13ish, give or take, although it can be enjoyed by young adults of all ages. It is a comparatively 'normal' book by Pinkwater's standards, starting off downright normal and slowly escalating the silliness level as the book goes on.
It is the tale of Leonard Neeble and Alan Mendelsohn (who claims to be from Mars). They are both intelligent kids, who actually enjoy reading and learning -- so they are having trouble in school. The other kids think that they are weird, and the teachers are not happy to have their lesson plans disrupted by independent thought. Leonard and Alan team up and learn to enjoy tormenting their peers and teachers (Alan is particularly good at this). Things are starting to look up. They start exploring the surrounding city, finding odd shops and cool eateries and strange characters.
Despite being smart kids, they are just a little bit too taken with the the oddballs of Hogboro, and fall for an obvious con. They spend all of their money on a device that is supposed to help them to read minds, control other people, and perhaps even travel the dimensions. To everyone's surprise, including the guy who sold them the device, it works. They go back to the shop, and against their better judgement allow the shopkeeper to con them out of another good chunk of change. And again, they pay too much for a shoddy piece of crap that does exactly what it says it will do. It is completely inexplicable.
Despite the fact that the boys keep buying stuff from shysters, this book is a pretty good introduction to some basic critical thinking skills. It is also a lot of fun. And for the most part, it's actually a pretty sane story, for Pinkwater. This is a good book to start off a beginning Pinkwater fan, and a good selection for anyone who likes rather odd stories about very odd characters and places.
This is yet another Pinkwater book that is hard to find outside of his recently republished omnibuses. It appears in his collection 5 Novels, which also includes the books Slaves of Spiegel, The Snarkout Boys and the Avocado of Death, The Last Guru, and Young Adult Novel.