BooksForKidsBlog

Saturday, October 25, 2014

How Big? Gigantosaurus by Jonny Duddle

"BEWARE, MY CHILD,
OF THE GIGANTOSAURUS, SO FIERCE AND WILD!
WITH TEETH AS LONG AS YOU ARE TALL.

HE'LL MAKE A SNACK OF ONE SO SMALL.
HIS FEET GO STOMP! HIS JAWS GO CRUNCH!IN THE BLINK OF AN EYE, YOU'LL BE HIS LUNCH!"

Listen to Mama, Cretaceous kiddies! Even a boneheaded ankylosaurus or triceratops is just a crunchy appetizer for this guy.

Four little dinosaurs hear their mamas' warnings, but being kids, it's just a stimulus for a game of bogeyman, big time. At least, it is for young Bonehead, a feisty little ankylosaurus. He offers to play lookout from the top of a giant termite mound while his buddies, Bill, Finn, and Tiny play.

That's prudent! But wee Bonehead is not above a prank or two, or few! Just as the guys get going with their game, Bonehead sounds a warning!

"IT'S THE GIGANTOSAURUS!

QUICK! RUN AND HIDE!"

His three pals scatter and take cover, shivering with fear.

But there's no stomp and crunch to follow. It's only a harmless triceratops papa grazing nearby. Bonehead is convulsed with giggles at his gag.

"YOU RAN! YOU HID!

YOU WERE ALL SO SCARED!"

Bill, Finn, and Tiny are not amused, but Bonehead claims it was just a practice drill and they passed the test, so they go back to their game.

But Bonehead gets bored with his watch. As soon as he sees a diplodocus dad approaching, he can't resist sounding the alarm again, and then again.

The little dinos are definitely steamed. After their third run-through of the drill, they are ready to demote Bonehead from deputy duty. They've had it with the faux frights!

"WE'RE OFF TO EXPLORE.

WE'RE NOT GOING TO PLAY WITH YOU ANYMORE!"

Boney is left alone, and getting a little fearful. There's something big and noisy coming near and he hears a definite STOMP!

Will he wind up as the crunchy lunch?

As Publishers Weekly points out, it's "a witty cautionary tale that boils down to "The Ankylosaurus Who Cried Wolf." in Jonny Duddle's Gigantosaurus (Templar Books, 2014). Duddle arranges a cheerful near miss for his young prankster this time, in a lesson about lying well learned, all set in a rhyming version of the venerable Aesop's fable that gets the ancient truism across. Duddle's illustrations of a leafy and verdant Cretaceous jungle with lots of hiding places for his little herbivores make for some fun page turns, especially the concluding three-way gatefold which shows what almost happens to the little imposter when--not the dreaded gigantosaurus--but an unexpected airborne pteranodon stops by for a quick snack.

Duddle adds an appendix, "Meet the Dinosaurs in This Book," which includes the story characters and other dino denizons of the prehistoric landscape, including the parasaurolophus, and the real big guy of the swamps, the giganotosaurus. For fans of these creatures of the Cretaceous and Jurassic ages. with both exotic and old favorites, pair this one with Tim Myers' Down at the Dino Wash Deluxe. (Read review here).

Labels: ,

Friday, October 24, 2014

Bogeyman! Big Bad Bubble by Adam Rubin

YOU MAY NOT KNOW THIS, BUT WHEN A BUBBLE POPS, IT DOESN'T JUST DISAPPEAR.

IT RE-APPEARS IN LA LA LAND, WHERE THE MONSTERS LIVE.

You might expect that monsters living in a dank, dark world would be happy to see a cloud of pretty blue bubbles blowing their way! After all, every kid in our world gets a big bottle of bubble stuff as soon as the weather warms and starts happily trying to wand and blow bubbles up over over the treetops. But no.

It seems that La La Land has its own fear-monger, a big yellow guy named Mogo who once had a unfortunate encounter with bubble gum and who has convinced all the other little monsters that bubbles are the the ultimate horror.

BUBBLES ARE SNEAKY. THEY TRAVEL IN PACKS.

SUMMER IS THE WORST TIME. THAT'S WHEN THEY GO INTO A FEEDING FRENZY.

Fed a daily indoctrination of bubblephobia, all the monsters cringe in fear and loathing when the bubbles appear.  Despite the indisputable fact that all the La La inhabitants have all the right stuff--horns, fangs, claws or all three--to take on the invasion, no one is willing to confront a bubble, mano a mano, to find out what it is made of. Yerburt, Froofle, and Wumpus flee, screeching monstrously.

It's time for a little phobia busting in Adam Rubin's latest, Big Bad Bubble (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2014), as the author's off-page narrator-slash--therapist talks Wumpus through a little cognitive counseling, and when Wumpus pokes a big bubble with his horn, he finds out it's just ...

A BALL OF AIR!

BUTTERFLIES, ON THE OTHER HAND....

Ever since Charlie Brown and Lucy cringed at the sight of sidewalk fuzz and Max confronted the Wild Things on their own turf, authors have helped kids confront imagined terrors. With a lot of artistic help from his friend and illustrator, Daniel Salmieri, author Rubin takes a poke at those innocuous and irrational fears by proposing the most innocuous threat yet, a soap bubble! Salmieri's bright orange, yellow, green and red characters are visual standouts set against his gloomy black backgrounds, giving this airborne bugaboo a decidedly light touch.

Other best-selling picture book hits by this dynamic duo are Those Darn Squirrels! (and sequels) and Dragons Love Tacos. (Check out my reviews here and here.)

Labels: ,

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Buggy Boos! Halloween Bugs by David Carter

WHO'S BEHIND THE MAGICAL DOOR?

THE BAT-IN-THE-HAT BUG!

What do bugs and Halloween have in common?

They're both CREEPY!

And a lot of creepy-crawly critters can be found in bugmeister David Carter's redo of his Halloween Bugs (Bugs in a Box Books) (Little Simon).

There are scary hairy crawlers, Great Pumpkin bugs, and a one-horned, one-eyed, so-called people-eater bug, all concealed artfully behind sturdy flaps in this charming toy-and-movable book illustrated specially for the scary season. Kids will interact with each two-page spread to find one of Carter's creative creepy-crawlers, a spiffy bug in a top hat, or a touchy-feely orange-yarn many-legged critter, hidden behind each distinctive door.

But the artist-designer saves the best for last--an elaborate pop-up of a buggy graveyard, with ghostly Halloween bugs peering out from behind some cleverly inscribed tombstones:

MILLICENT MOTH

Bless her soul.

She went to the outhouse

And fell down the hole
.
For preschoolers who go buggy over these critters, other famous flap and pop-up bug books by David Carter include Bedtime Bugs: A Pop-up Good Night Book by David A. Carter, Birthday Bugs: A Pop-up Party by David A. Carter, and The 12 Bugs of Christmas: A Pop-up Christmas Counting Book (Bugs in a Box Books).

Labels: ,

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Back to the Future: 'Twas the Night Before Christmas: A Visit to St. Nicholas illustrated by Jessie Willcox Smith

"'TWAS THE NIGHT BEFORE CHRISTMAS... "

So begins America's favorite holiday story poem, composed for his own children by Clement C. Moore in 1822. First printed in the local newspaper and then picked up by other publications and reprinted in school readers, "A Visit from St. Nicholas" eventually found its way into picture book format. Now each fall publishing season features several special new editions of Moore's text, done up in many styles, cartoons, parodies, and gorgeous, full-color form in which famous illustrators compete to find new and creative ways to portray that famous midnight intruder who never fails to leave filled stockings "by the chimney with care."

Forthcoming early, with plenty of time to order for the holidays is Houghton Mifflin's revised and new edition. For this one the publisher echews the current crop of artists in a return to the past, back to the 1912 edition of 'Twas the Night Before Christmas (Holiday Classics) (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2014), featuring the vintage artwork of the illustrious turn of the nineteenth-century illustrator, Jessie Willcox Smith. Smith, known for her work on several classic children's books, was a student of Howard Pyle, noted for his heroic illustrations in The Story of King Arthur and His Knights (Sterling Unabridged Classics) and The Merry Adventures of Robin Hood (Sterling Unabridged Classics).

For Clement C. Moore's classic, however, artist Jessie Willcox Smith avoids the heroic, picturing her St. Nicholas faithfully as a "jolly old elf," half the height of the father who cautiously observes him, indeed plump and elfish, with stumpy legs and elfin brown fur garb without white trim, with pointed cap unadorned by the usual fur pom-pom atop it, more a rotund Brownie than super-sized benefactor. Artist Smith's scale is modest as well, with a plain brown fireplace from which hang ten, well-worn socks, in varying sizes, from a string across the fireplace front. The children nestle, several to a bed under flowered quilts, and Papa in his nightshirt and cap emerges, a little disgruntled, from his canopied, side-curtained bed to peer out the mullioned window-paned shutters at St. Nicholas landing noisily on his lawn.

Santa's reindeer and sled are miniature, as Clark describes them, dwarfed by his huge, cram-jammed toy bag, and this Santa has to look up as he confronts Papa in the hallway. Smith's vignettes are set against bright white pages, centered like medallions, but not without jolly details of St. Nicolas's largess spilling from his pack. The Saint departs in an appropriately snow-decorated scene flanked by frozen evergreens, under a full yellow moon as expected, but eschewing the sight of saint and sled actually taking flight. Smith sets her text in centered paragraphs with large, red initial capitals, and adds decorations in the form of a red-beribboned girl saying her prayers on the first page and a tiny red-overalled bear adorning a small round box on the final page.

All in all, Jessie Willcox Smith's version of this classic holiday story is a lovely choice for holiday reading and gifting, child-sized and child-friendly, and a nice addition to the holiday book shelf.

Labels: , ,

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Snow Magic: Outside by Deirdre Gill

OUTSIDE, THE SNOW FALLS SILENTLY ON THE HOUSE.

INSIDE, A BOY HAS NOTHING TO DO.

His toy dragon mounts an attack on his brother, who sits immobile in front of a screen, oblivious to red plush fantasies.

So the boy suits up in coat, tall boots, and scarf and leaves him behind.

He steps outside... into a different world, and on the bottom step turns around and falls backward...

PLOOF!

HE SINKS INTO THE SOFT SNOW.

Looking up at the sky, with just a few wispy clouds, he sees in them the shape of an angel, and makes his own angel in the snow. He knocks on the window and writes on the frosty glass, "Come outside," but his brother is lost in a game on another screen.

SO THE BOY BEGINS TO ROLL A LITTLE CLUMP OF SNOW.

And when the snowball is taller than he is, he sculpts a snow creature.

The snow creature and the boy regard each other seriously and then they begin to build...

UNTIL,

THE CASTLE IS PERFECT.

A castle calls for a dragon, and waving goodbye to the snow creature on the ground, the boy mounts the dragon's back and soars, over the trees, over his house, and beyond the village, which grows tiny below him as the sun begins to set.

Then it is time to leave his snow dragon and head back inside, except... there is his brother, finally in his parka and boots and ready to go out, and together by starlight the boys

PLAY OUTSIDE.

Not even the most jaded adult commuter can miss the magic of a new-snow morning, all angles softened and all the drab colors of winter vanquished beneath sparkling white. Deirdre Gill's debut book, Outside (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2014). forthcoming today, takes the reader outside, outside the house, yes, but also outside the usual world to a place where trees and snowmen become magical beings and even a sunset dragon offers a flight above the everyday world. Gill's narration is simple, set against her illustrations, done in retro style and soft pastels, the grays, blues, and whites of the snow, the soft green of the gingerbread-trimmed farmhouse, and the dragon's-breath red and orange glow of the dragon that evoke everychild's dream of a snowy day. Possibly the best snow book of the year, this one is perfect for reading alone or pairing with the classics, Ezra Jack Keats' The Snowy Day or Raymond Briggs' The Snowman.

Labels: , ,

Monday, October 20, 2014

There's A War On, You Know! Susan Marcus Bends the Rules by Jane Cutler

Dear Marv, I wrote,

You were right about baseball. I am the only Yankee fan in town. So I just do not bother with baseball. I have other stuff to worry about. One thing is trying to get rid of my New York accent before school starts. Another thing is Jim Crow. That is the name they give to laws they have to keep Negroes and white people separated from each other. Can you believe it? I would love to do something against old Jim Crow, but I don't know what. What could a kid do against laws like that, anyway?
And one more thing. I have an ugly haircut that I hope will grow out in time for school.

Please write back.

Still Your Best Friend, Susan

In 1942 there's a war on, and a lot of things have changed. There are air raid drills, and Joe DiMaggio has been drafted and won't be around if the Yankees play the Cardinals in the Worlds Series. And now Susan's dad has to take a job in St. Louis, where everyone is a Cards fan.

Susan knows that things will be different in Clayton, the small town just outside St. Louis where they move. But there are still young men away in the armed forces, still double-feature movies on Sunday night with her parents, and even a tiny "hole-in-the-wall" Chinese restaurant like they one they loved back in the Bronx. And there is a girl her age, Marlene with her bossy little sister Liz in her building who make friends with her right away and show her how to roller skate in the cool downstairs garage and introduce her to the town's swimming pool and its high dive.

But some things are very different. People talk differently and tell her they can't understand her New York accent. Marlene's grumpy grandmothers complain that she shouldn't play with Susan because she's a Jew, something she never heard back in the Bronx. And then she meets Loretta, a black girl who lives in the basement with her mother who is the building custodian, and when she wants to invite Loretta along to the pool, Susan's dad has to explain that Missouri has something called Jim Crow laws that mean that black and white people can't go to the same swimming pools, schools, movies, or even restaurants.

But as the steamy summer goes on and the girls share monopoly games, Kool Aid, skating, and Loretta's mother's homegrown tomato sandwiches, their friendship grows. Then Susan discovers that there is an interesting loophole in Missouri's Jim Crow laws. Public transportation is not segregated, and Susan comes up with an idea for an August adventure they all can share.

"What in the world can you be thinking, Miss Susan New York Marcus?" asks Marlene.

Maybe she can't change Missouri's Jim Crow laws, but Susan believes the friends can bend them a little. Her plan is that she and Marlene get on the midday bus to St. Louis, and Loretta will get on two stops later. They will all move to the wide seats around the back of the bus and see all the downtown St. Louis sights together.

We all got dressed up that day.

Cranky Liz would not keep up. Nobody was waiting at the stop where we had planned to be, so the driver just kept on going. Now what?

The girls take the next bus, wondering if Loretta noticed that they weren't on the first bus, but when the bus came to the stop, Loretta is there waiting.

"She waited," Marlene whispered.

"She broke the rules," I grumbled, smiling. "Maybe that is what they mean when they say 'rules are made to be broken.'" Marlene said.

"Marlene, did you just make that up?" I demanded.

"No, honest, it's a saying. I think it means you sometimes have to think for yourself, like Loretta did."

And when Susan leads the girls off the bus near her parents' favorite movie house and takes them to their favorite little Chinese restaurant, the girls are ready to try to bend one Jim Crow rule. But when they get there, they find something scary:

Half the window was smashed, and on it, in thick black paint, someone had written JAPS GO HOME! JAP TRAITOR was written in black paint on the sidewalk.

"Let's get out of here," said Marlene.

Loretta and Liz did not budge. Liz moved closer to the window and peered through it.

And the Chinese chef and his wife recognize Susan and motion them inside. "Not Jap! Chinese," he says, seating them together at one small table. Susan's plan to integrate a restaurant is a success. Take that, Jim Crow! she thinks. She breaks open her fortune cookie and reads the fortune inside.

"The future sleeps in the present."

Jane Cutler's Susan Marcus Bends the Rules (Holiday House, 2014) portrays the world of 1942 vividly, with the sounds of radio baseball games through open windows, fans whirring in the summer heat, the smells of warm tomatoes on the vine and bus exhaust and Chinese food that remind Susan of home, all combined with the different views of race and laws in World War II America--a time when there were many changes and many more soon to come. Cutler writes comfortably for middle elementary readers, portraying a child's world that is different in some ways but the same as today's children share in the most important ways, the ways of friendship and family and fairness. "Rebelling against discrimination is only part of this appealing story, but it’s the most memorable part. An enjoyable chapter book with great potential for discussion," says Booklist.

Labels: , ,

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Critter Quarters: Julia's House for Lost Creatures by Ben Hatke

JULIA'S HOUSE CAME INTO TOWN

AND SETTLED BY THE SEA.

It seems that Julia can settle down wherever she wills, being that her rambling but tumbledown old house sits upon the back of a giant tortoise.

Her cottage by the sea is picturesque, but soon it is too quiet for Julia's taste.

Up goes a sign, JULIA'S HOUSE FOR LOST CREATURES, and it doesn't take much time to attract tenants. But they are a fantastical lot--and a troublesome lot as well. It's not too hard to see why this bunch are homeless.

There's an annoying troll who constantly moans the lack of a bridge to lurk beneath. Patched-up Kitty walks up the walls. The mermaid monopolizes the bathtub, and everyone demands fresh towels. As more and more creatures come to stay, Julia is suddenly too busy, providing cozy fires and tea and toast at all hours. Quiet it's not.

And Julia's motley visitors are a sloppy lot as well. Washing up, sweeping up, and mopping up behind everything from yellow duckies to dragons has her run ragged. Julia's House for Lost Creatures requires a little rethinking.

And soon another sign goes up:

JULIA'S HOUSE: CHORE CHART

Ben Hatke's Julia's House for Lost Creatures (Roaring Brook Press, 2014) is a piquant little tale of the perils of innkeeping for fanciful beasties. Like the Old Woman Who Lived in a Shoe, Julia, in her tidy green kerchief and apron, and her prosaic housekeeping dilemmas, are all too ordinary, while her roomers are exceedingly extraordinary. All these tea-drinking ghosties and ghoulies make for some humorous illustrations, done delightfully in Ben Hatke's light black line and pleasant blue and green-hued palette.

Kirkus Reviews observes, "Hatke steps from graphic novels (Zita the Spacegirl) to the picture-book format with aplomb, blending tropes from both worlds for a sweetly weird domestic adventure. Readers will want to move right in."

Labels: ,

Saturday, October 18, 2014

What's Behind That Door? Haunted House (Funny Faces) by Roger Priddy

DARE YOU COME AND LOOK AROUND

THIS DARK AND SCARY PLACE?

What is behind that orange door guarded by the black cat?

Little fingers will do the walking as very young trick-or-treaters opt to go inside and see for themselves! And there are plenty of jolly Halloween treats inside.

Gwen the spider is spinning a web to fill her rumbly tummbly. D. J. Bones is looking funky, and Headless Harry the Knight seems to have found his helmeted head! Wendy Witch flies through as a Ghost says Booooo!

Roger Priddy's Funny Faces Haunted House (Priddy Books, 2012) has all the usual suspects inside his little shaped board book. Hanging out with the Halloween gang gives little fingers lots to explore--googly eyes persist on every sturdy page along with cut-out shapes and fuzzy creatures to feel. A first book about Halloween from Roger Priddy's Funny Faces series that is a treat for little eyes.

Labels: , ,

Friday, October 17, 2014

What to Wear II: Llama, Llama, Trick or Treat!

WHAT WOULD LLAMA LIKE TO BE?

Llama Llama is shopping with Mama for his Halloween costume. He peers through the show window at the choices. Green ghouls? Little monsters? Inside, he goes through the costumes hanging on the rack. An astronaut? A bumblebee? It's so hard to choose!

Back home, Llama Llama and his best friend Nellie Gnu have fun decorating the house for the big night. They scoop out the pumpkin's insides to get it ready to be a Jack-o'-Lantern. They fill the big and little candy bowls for doorbell ringers and guests.

But what will Llama Llama be when it is time to go out trick-or-treating?

Anna Dewdney's admittedly adorable little llama is back with a must-have Halloween board book, Llama Llama Trick or Treat (Viking Press, 2014). Dewdney cleverly keeps the suspense going until the final last-page reveal in which Llama Llama greets the princessy Nellie wearing a very spooky disguise. Dewdney's candy-corn decorated holiday offering features her trademark short and punchy rhymes and her inimitably appealing little cast of characters for a Halloween book that toddlers and preschoolers will love to have for their first Halloween treat.

Labels: ,

Thursday, October 16, 2014

National Book Award Finalists Announced

The finalists for the National Book Award for the best book in young people's literature have been announced. The five finalists include three novels, a memoir, and one historical nonfiction book.



Eliot Schrefer's Threatened (Scholastic Press, 2014) is an eco-thriller that takes young Luc and mysterious "Prof" into the forests of Gabon, to investigate the dangers to the survival of the endangered bonobo chimpanzees, where they find the chimps are not the only only endangered.




Deborah Wiley's second book in her historical fiction trilogy,Revolution (The Sixties Trilogy) (Scholastic Press, 2014) follows two characters, a white girl in sleepy Greenwood, Mississippi and a young African American boy, who meet and live through their life-changing Freedom Summer of 1964. (See my July, 2014, review here.) The first book in Wiles series is Countdown (Sixties Trilogy).




In John Corey Wiley's science fiction coming-of-age novel Noggin (Atheneum Press, 2014) finds that even a second chance to live has its problems. Travis dies of leukemia at the age of sixteen, but five years later his medically preserved head is transplanted to a donor body. But even though he's still a sophomore in his head and at school, everyone else, his friends, his first girlfriend, and his parents, are five years older and have moved on. Learning to be himself in a different body in a much changed world teaches Travis a lot about what it means to be and to live.


In her Brown Girl Dreaming (Nancy Paulsen Books, 2014), award-winning novelist and poet Jacqueline Woodson tells her own story of growing up in the 1970s as an African American girl in Columbus, Ohio, Greenville, South Carolina, and Brooklyn, New York, in a free-verse memoir that documents the family life and teachers who helped her realize her talent as a writer. "I know" she says, "that I was lucky enough to be born during a time when the world was changing like crazy--and that I was part of that change."


Multiple-award winning author Steve Sheinkin's The Port Chicago 50: Disaster, Mutiny, and the Fight for Civil Rights (Roaring Brook, 2014) looks at a little-known civil rights event in the midst of World War II. An explosion in the armaments-shipping facility at Port Chicago, in which over 300 African American sailor were killed. Sheinkin documents how the survivors refused to return to work until dangerous practices were changed and how fifty of them were court martialed as deserters in one of the first cases in the civil rights movement.


The winners of all the National Book Awards, including the prizes for adult fiction, nonfiction, and poetry, will be announced on November 19, 2014. See the complete shortlist of finalists here.

Labels: ,

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

More Mutton! The Complete Adventures of Johnny Mutton by James Proimos

ONE DAY MOMMA MUTTON OPENED HER FRONT DOOR AND FOUND THAT A BABY HAD BEEN LEFT ON HER FRONT STEPS.

"B-A-A!"

"YOWZA!"

BUT IT WASN'T JUST ANY BABY.

IT WAS A BABY...

...SHEEP!

BUT MOMMA'S WEAK EYES AND WARM HEART KEPT HER FROM EVEN NOTICING.

And with the convenient surname of Mutton, nobody else seems to object to Johnny's being a sheep either. (Although Mr. Stockman is heard to observe "There's something odd about that boy.")

Johnny Mutton is certainly silly, but so sweet that he gets by with it. When his classmates all bring an apple for their teacher, Johnny brings a bag of Poofy Marshmallows, easier on Mr. Slapdash's false choppers. At Halloween, when all his friends show up as pirates or witches, Johnny Mutton comes costumed as a runny nose, with two long green socks hanging out of the nasal openings. Luckily, he meets his certain soulmate, Gloria Crust, attired as a giant box of tissues.

Momma Mutton is a terrific basketball player, but Johnny can't shoot, dribble, or catch a pass, except in his mouth. But Momma is understanding when Johnny reveals his secret desire.

"I WANT TO SWIM IN THE WATER BALLET."

Johnny Mutton went on to become a national hero by winning twenty gold medals in the Olympics for water ballet.

Whether it's bonding with his nemesis Mandy Dinkis in the dark in a game of Hide and Seek, or playing Pin The Tail On The Jell-o at his surprise birthday party for Gloria, matriculating at Mrs. Bottom's School of Manners, or showing scary Old Man Stagglemyer how to skateboard, Johnny Mutton is always...er... well,...

SO HIM!

James Proimos' brand-new compendium of Johnny Mutton cartoons, The Complete Adventures of Johnny Mutton (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2014), is guaranteed goofiness, certified silliness, and warranted wacky stuff. Great for fans of Harry Allard's and James Marshall's The Stupids series, Dav Pilkey's The Dumb Bunnies and Captain Underpants series, and Lincoln Peirce's Big Nate series, Proimos' over-the-top cartooning and pizazz-y zany stories are fluffy but rib-tickling fare for reluctant readers or giggle groupies.

Labels: , , ,

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Cyber Crusader! The Junkyard Bot: Robots Rule! by C. J. Richards

George plugged his ears. "Jackbot!" he shouted.

The door opened, and three feet of scrap and spare parts rattled into the room. Jackbot's head tilted toward the bed and his green eyes flashed."
Yes, George," he said in his expressionless mechanical voice.

"Shut that thing up, would you?"

Jackbot scooped up the alarm clock in his pincer and put it on the floor. He raised a metal foot.

CRUNCH!

"That was--uh--a little extreme," George said. But it was no use blaming Jackbot. Robots just do what they are told.

George Gearing is a lonely orphan, living in a rundown suburb of Terabyte Heights with his grumpy junkyard manager uncle. But George is a born gearhead. Lacking the funds to buy his own deluxe model, he has built his own ramshackle robot, and secretly thinks of him as something like his best friend.

So when Jackbot is hit by a robocar owned by the top robotics expert of TinkerTech, Dr. Droid, George quickly accepts the offer of its passenger, Droid's daughter, Ann Droid, to help him rebuild Jackbot. Sneaking into the spare parts department of TinkerTech with Ann, George outdoes himself. Although the rusty and dented Jackbot looks the same on the outside, George is able to rewire him with AI, artificial intelligence, the Holy Grail of robotics, and he has powers no other robot, even Dr. Micron's best at Tinker Tech, possesses. Jackbot can think for himself.

But soon word of George's brilliant breakthrough reaches Dr. Micron, who quickly realizes that gaining the secrets of Jackbot's operating system will give him control over the robots of Terabyte Heights and eventually allow him every evil genius' goal--to rule the world. He kidnaps and downloads Jackbot, and when George and Ann try to rescue the robot, they find themselves captives of the nefarious Dr. Micron and ironically held as the prisoners of a traitorous Jackbot, with a timebomb ticking away inside him. Only George can save himself, Ann and Dr. Droid, and the rest of the world by his insight into Jackbot's most inner circuitry.

"Jackbot! I can see you're in there! And you're fighting to override Dr. Micron's program. This is no time to die!" said George.

"I'm a robot," said Jackbot. "My existence is merely a bunch of data streams. FIFTEEN SECONDS!"

"You're not just a robot, Jackbot. You're my friend."

"Sorry, George," said Jackbot. His eyes turned red again. "THREE, TWO.... "

George crouched on the floor and covered his head with his hands, waiting for the explosion. Nothing happened. He peered through his fingers.

Jackbot's eyes were green. "Just kidding!" he said. "You had me at a minute to go."

But with the evil would-be world despot Dr. Micron at large, George, Jackbot, Ann and her dad Dr. Droid, are the only cyber saviors able to take on Micron's legions of slave robots and defeat his evil plan. Readers will suspect that sequels are set to follow (the words Book One on the cover are a clue), and there is hope for mankind, as George learns when he returns to school and finds that they have reinstated their old employee as custodian after seriously bad experiences with his robotic replacement.

"It's great you got your job back, Mr. Cog." said George.

"Yeah," said the janitor. "On account of the robot was the tool of a homicidal maniac who wanted to take over the world... and I ain't."

C. J. Richard's just published The Junkyard Bot: Robots Rule, Book 1 (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2014) is a cyborg savant's dream. George can't wait to work as Dr. Droid's apprentice at TinkerTech, and with Dr. Micron still on the loose, the stage is set for another humorous robot romp through the easy-reading pages of Book Two. While the plot of The Junkyard Bot: Robots Rule, Book 1 is a recognizable chunk of fictional code, Richard's wit makes this robot tale one that is mostly character-driven, with the strong portrayal of George, Ann Droid, and the star of the show, Jackbot. With edgy cartoon illustrations, blueprint endpapers, page decorations by illustrator Gora Fujita, and page-turning heroic action that will entice even reluctant readers, it looks as if robot lovers are set for rip-roaring cyber sequels for a while.

Labels: ,