Thursday, April 05, 2018

Following Baxter

35604273Kerley, Barbara. Following Baxter
(Cover Art by Gilbert Ford)
April 3rd 2018 by HarperCollins
ARC provided by Young Adult Books Central

Jordie, whose father has been living in an apartment over the family garage since her parents have separated, really wants a dog. Her mother always says no, so Jordie is excited when Professor Reese moves next door with a large dog acquired when a friend had to leave the country suddenly. The professor is very busy with her experiments and setting up her lab in her basement, so she's more than happy when Jordie offers to walk the dog, whom they name Baxter. Baxter is everything Jordie could want in a dog, and she's thrilled to be able to spend every day after school with him, accompanied by her younger brother, TJ. The two children eventually find out the nature of Professor Reese's experiments, and even help with some of them, When the professor goes missing, though, they need to find her without letting their parents know what is going on.

Next to jet packs, teleportation is probably the most enthralling way to travel! I can't think of another middle grade books that addresses this, and I appreciated how much detail was given to how objects would have to be broken down and reassembled. At one point, a cockroach is teleported accidentally, and the discussion about how it fares afterwards is very interesting.

While it's a bit of a stretch that Professor Reese would end up with a job, it's a nice thought that she would come to the aid of a friend so quickly. It's also nice to see her becoming friends with the neighbor children so quickly; does anyone take baked goods to welcome new neighbors anymore? The parents certainly check up on Jordie and TJ, but it's refreshing to see children given a bit of freedom and responsibility. The parents' living arrangements give them lots of opportunities to support the children, but also give the children a little wiggle room to sneak out from time to time.

The science is handled nicely; I'd definitely categorize this as science fiction rather than fantasy. Professor Reese has a job at a college that includes meetings and classes, and it's good to see a woman shown in a high level science job. In real life, she would probably have college students serving as her lab assistants, but Jordie and TJ do a good job in that role, as well as with walking Baxter.

This is somewhat reminiscent of Bunker's Felix Yz, Kade's Bot Wars,  Boyce's Cosmic or Scaletta's The Winter of the Robots in that there are adventures with some scientific twists, but the inclusion of a dog as well as Professor Reese sets this off in a category all its own.

I'm debating purchase for my library-- the mystery is a bit week, and I don't think the cover will entice my students to pick this up. It's just not quite the right flavor of either dog book or science fiction. Definitely take a look at it, though.

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