Wednesday, July 14, 2021

Maya and the Robot

Ewing, Eve L. and Almeda, Christine (illus.) Maya and the Robot
July 13th 2021 by Kokila
E ARC provided by Edelweiss Plus

Maya lives in an apartment in the city with her mother and baby brother Amir, and visits with her dad on the weekends. She is really interested in science and technology and looking forward to 5th grade, until she realizes that her two best friends, MJ and Jada, have the cool science teacher while she is stuck with Ms. Rodriguez, who has the desks arranged in rows. Maya goes by her middle name instead of her first name, Patricia, but is too afraid to correct her teacher. Zoe, the most popular girl in the grade, gives her a hard time about this. Maya helps out Mr. McMillan, who runs a local variety store, after school, and when she is cleaning out a storage closet, she finds a robot (Ralph) that Mr. Mac's son, Christopher, had developed when he was younger. Knowing Maya is interested in working on such things, Mr. Mac helps Maya get it back to her home, where she starts to work on it. With some help and a little luck, she gets Ralph to work and starts to program him to do all sorts of interesting things, like greet people in other languages, grocery shop, and clean up things around the house. As the school science fair approaches, Maya decides to bring the robot, and finds out information about Mr. Mac's son as well as some of her classmates. 
Strengths: This started with quite a bang! The most common complaint I hear about books is that they don't have "anything happen", but this was funny and engaging from the very beginning, in the way that Dairman's All Four Stars was. I loved Maya's science interests, and her feelings of insecurity when she has to be in class away from her friends will resonate with readers. Her family and community are also supportive, and I want a shop like Mr. Mac's down the street from ME! Ralph the robot is awesome, even if his skills require a bit of suspension of disbelief. Even the backstory about Christopher is handled in a sensitive way. I love the bright cover! 
Weaknesses: This is just a bit young for my library. The inclusion of recess, and of one teacher for all classes, makes this hard to sell to my older readers. 6th graders would pick it up, especially because of the great illustrations, but I don't see 7th or 8th graders being interested.  
What I really think: This was a very fun book, and it was great to see so much science and technology represented. I would definitely buy this for an elementary library, and it would make a great gift for a tech obsessed child. 

Ms. Yingling

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