Friday, September 08, 2017

Guy Friday- Enginerds

Lerner, Jarrett. Enginerds
September 12th 2017 by Aladdin
E ARC from Edelweiss Above the Treeline

Ken and Dan like hanging out with their other geeky friends, and often construct things out of rubber bands and chopsticks. When Ken finds a box on his porch, he figures it is something fun to construct that his grandfather must have left. He calls Dan, and the two follow the directions until they have a rough idea that the project is a robot. Unfortunately, the two have to go out and hunt down Ken's dog... and when they get back, the robot has finished putting itself together! Greeeeg is also demanding "all the comestibles" and stows these in his stomach section, which he mysteriously empties quickly and wants to refill again. John Henry and Jerry also gets a robots, and they, too demand food. Before long, the robots are on the warpath to find things to eat, working their collective way to a grocery store and wreaking havoc. Ken is still confused about where the robots came from, but he knows they are dangerous-- they process the food, turning it into highly compacted squares that they can fire out of their hindquarters with great intensity! Eventually, the boys work together to find a way to disable the robots and manage to avert disaster, and even figure out the origin and use of the machines.
Strengths:  I loved that the robots were a project gone awry and was something that had the remote possibility of actually happening. The fact that the book had ballistic farts didn't hurt. There are lots of funny lines ("He shrieked like a terrified ferret.") and slightly goofy if terrifying robot antics. The cover is great and will cause a lot of reluctant readers to pick up the book and hopefully get caught up in the story. I know I enjoyed it.
Weaknesses: This looks like it should have interior illustrations but only has them at the beginning of chapters. There's not a lot of character development, and I wish that the grandfather had somehow gotten more involved with the project. I'm a little surprised this isn't included in the MAX line up.
What I really think: There just aren't enough robot books out there, and this was a really good one. It was somewhat realistic, didn't have the quirky names of Robots Rule or the flippancy of House of Robots or Frank Einstein.

29601444Bell, Eric. Alan Cole is Not a Coward
September 5th 2017 by Katherine Tegen Books
E ARC from Edelweiss Above the Treeline

Alan's brother, Nathan, is extraordinarily cruel and bullies Alan relentlessly. It doesn't help that their father is demanding and dismissive, and their mother is so beaten down by years of his treatment that she distances herself from the boys. At school, Alan has two good friends, Madison and Zach, who are supportive and help Alan survive all of the mean students and teachers. When Nathan challenges Alan to a contest that involves things like getting a first kiss and learning to swim, Madison steps up to help with the swimming portion, which makes Madison's somewhat over-involved parents happy. To complicate matters, Alan gets involved in an awkward snafu at a work event for his father that isn't his fault, but that makes his father look bad, angering him further. Alan's mother does share a little bit about why the father is so volatile, and this helps a little. It doesn't help that Alan has a crush on Connor, but hasn't told anyone in his life that he is gay; Nathan's threat is that he will tell everyone about this if Alan loses his challenge. As the deadline nears, Alan finds himself getting in more trouble, but also figuring out some things about himself, his friends, and his family.
Strengths: This was a very good story involving a LGBTQ character in middle school. His coming to terms with his own identity was part of the story, but not the entire story. Connor's reaction to finding out about the crush is perfect; he's initially embarrassed by his friends, but later talks to Alan and says that it's cool for Alan to feel however he likes, but that he himself likes girls, so he's not a good object for Alan's crush. This is a very tricky topic of conversation for tween boys, and that reaction is about as good as it gets.
Weaknesses: Everyone in the entire book is mean and dysfunctional. Alan lives in a grim, grim world. I would have liked it if there could have been one positive and supportive person, perhaps if his mother had been able to overcome her own dysfunction a bit more, or there had been a supportive teacher.
What I really think: This is a compelling and important title that I think I need to buy even though it was not enjoyable to read because of all of the horrible things in Alan's life. It will circulate well enough, and just needs to be in most middle grade collections. For some reason, it brings to mind Blume's Then Again, Maybe I Won't, in that it is uncomfortable but informational.
Ms. Yingling

1 comment:

  1. I agree that everyone seemed awful around him. But he did have one teacher who was helpful and his two friends. Even his "crush" showed some empathy and kindness. The dad and his brother were so mean though and it was a downer.