Robbie Forester and the Outlaws of Sherwood St.

Common Sense Media says

Superpowered kids have exciting crime-fighting adventure.

Age(i)

2
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5
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9
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12
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17

Quality(i)

 

What parents need to know

Educational value

While this is primarily a great adventure, it's also full of intriguing details and back stories, in the course of which young readers will learn quite a bit about other cultures and world history. Corporate greed, street crime, and Third World poverty -- not to mention the routines of daily life in New York City -- all become memorable, engaging experiences as seen through the characters' eyes.

Positive messages

Plenty of positive messages, even beyond the desire to help the poor. Magic or no magic, kids have to work through a lot of differences and frustrations to achieve their goals, but persistence and tenacity pay off. Also, as the book progresses and Robbie has occasion to compare her own family situation with those of her friends, her quirky, loving parents show exemplary stability, understanding, and good sense in dealing with life's situations.

Positive role models

Robbie and her friends -- all age 12 to 13 --are basically good, believable kids, which is to say that they think complicated thoughts, are sometimes scared, and don't always know why something's happening or why they make a particular choice. In general, however, their good choices are rewarded -- the bracelet seems to come to Robbie because (against her parents' advice about giving money to the homeless) she has twice given spare change to the old lady in the past.  Her parents -- Mom's a corporate lawyer who takes Robbie to help at a soup kitchen on weekends; Dad's a writer -- don't always make the right call, but they're generally paragons of good values and common sense. Along the way, the kids also meet assorted neighborhood characters from whom they learn valuable lessons.

Violence

While there's no actual gore, there are a number of scenes in which some of the kids are in danger. In one scene, the girls are cornered by a pair of street thugs, and the possibility of rape is suggested implicitly; in another, Robbie and Tut-Tut are stuck in the hold of the villains' boat bound for parts unknown. Also, arson is part of the bad guy's plan to take over a neighborhood for his redevelopment project, and there's a poignant scene of a couple watching their home go up in smoke. A flashback tells of a family drowning at sea.

Sex
Not applicable
Language
Not applicable
Consumerism
Not applicable
Drinking, drugs, & smoking

Adults drink beer and wine with meals; one of the subplots involves rescuing a historic neighborhood tavern. The thugs who attack Robbie and Ashanti are trying to sell them drugs, which they don't want, prompting the street-smart Robbie to deliver a mini-lecture on what to do when approached by drug dealers.

Parents Need to Know

Parents need to know that author Peter Abrahams has won Edgar Awards for both adult and young adult mysteries. Robbie Forester is a great, age-appropriate adventure with diverse, intriguing kids -- and magical powers that frustrate and teach as much as they deliver unique advantage. The good guys -- kids, adults, and a dog -- are flawed and often given to misunderstandings among themselves, but with or without supernatural assistance, their kind hearts, community spirit, and loyalty serve them all well. Expect some scenes of peril; arson also figures in the story.

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What's the story?

Twelve-year-old Robbie Forester is racing to school as usual when she notices that the homeless woman who's usually at the subway entrance has collapsed and runs to her aid. As the old lady is bundled into an ambulance, she drops a charm bracelet, which Robbie picks up and tries in vain to return. Before long, the bracelet turns out to have something of a mind of its own in bringing Robbie together with a band of new friends -- tall, elegant Ashanti; stuttering artistic prodigy Toussaint, better known as Tut-Tut; and homeschooled Silas, who can do anything with electronics. As the need arises, the bracelet confers particular superpowers on each member of this merry band, who come up against unexpected skullduggery and villains with smiling faces as they try to right many neighborhood wrongs.

Is it any good?

QUALITY
 

Peter Abrahams is an accomplished, multi-award-winning storyteller who's written acclaimed work for both adult and young audiences for years, so it's no surprise that ROBBIE FORESTER AND THE OUTLAWS OF SHERWOOD ST. has a lot to recommend it. The characters are engaging, the plot moves along nicely, and there's a lot of intriguing detail on many subjects, from history to Thai food, that's likely to send young readers off on their own explorations just for fun.

Families can talk about...

  • Families can talk about what Robbie says about what to do if a drug dealer talks to you on the street: "Keep walking and ignore him completely." Do you have to deal with these guys where you live?

  • One of the characters in the book lost his whole family in a storm when, as refugees, they tried to reach the U.S. by boat from Haiti. What do you know about Haiti and the conditions there, and why people might be so desperate to leave that they'd risk their lives?

  • Robbie and Ashanti's parents ultimately send them to private school, while Tut-Tut stays in public school. Silas, meanwhile, is homeschooled. How do the differences in their education matter in the story? How does it make a difference in what each kid knows and what each kid can do?

  • Robbie's parents, who are kindly and socially conscious, tell her not to give money to the homeless, but she's snuck spare change to the old woman at the subway station a couple of times. Likewise, she and her friends will, if the situation absolutely calls for it, deceive their parents. Do you think it's ever OK to go against your parents' rules?

Book details

Author:Peter Abrahams
Genre:Adventure
Topics:Adventures
Book type:Fiction
Publisher:Philomel
Publication date:January 19, 2012
Number of pages:320

This review of Robbie Forester and the Outlaws of Sherwood St. was written by

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  • ON: Content is age-appropriate for kids this age.
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  • Best: Really engaging, great learning approach.
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