A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this book.
Shows how sharing ideas and information can inspire creativity. Good example of problem-solving and scientific collaboration. Some discussion of atmospheric science. Some good vocabulary words like "imperative," "comestibles," and "abscond."
Sometimes it's necessary to swallow your pride and ask for help. Putting down friends builds walls between you. What you intend as friendly teasing might feel very different to the recipient. Friends help get you out of trouble, not into trouble. People are seldom all good or all bad: Even people you dislike probably have talents, skills, or qualities you can appreciate. Teamwork makes it easier to tackle big problems.
Positive Role Models
All the boys are very bright but not very good at communicating with each other. Ken is curious and perceptive, good at considering the what-ifs and able -- eventually -- to check his assumptions. Dan is especially open-minded and stands up for a classmate Ken badmouths. The EngiNerds show great courage: They don't shy away from challenges and they're quick to help each other.
Violence & Scariness
Children attacked by robots suffer minor cuts and bruises; perilous encounters with aggressive robots.
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Potty humor language including "turd," "butt," "farted," and "poop."
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Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that EngiNerds -- the promising start of a series by Jarrett Lerner -- is a well-written story about a group of engineering-minded 12-year-old boys whose technical know-how leads them in unexpected directions. There's a strong element of potty humor, but the book touches on substantive topics including friendship, respect, personal responsibility, and global challenges. A few children suffer minor injuries from the robots, and there are a few perilous moments. The EngiNerds seem to be ethnically diverse, but there are no female characters.
Is It Any Good?
Jarrett Lerner's strong entry into the growing genre of STEM adventures hits some of the hallmarks -- like robots and DIY problem-solving skills -- but adds a welcome dose of emotional authenticity. EngiNerds is narrated by Ken, who's alternately loyal, dismissive, warmhearted, cocky, humbled, and courageous. Readers may be drawn in by rogue robots and plentiful potty humor, but they'll stay for the well-developed story and perceptive portrayal of kids whose passions aren't always understood, even by their closest friends. The robots' raging appetites are good for laughs, but there's real food for thought in the backstory of how and why the robots were designed.
The book is crying out for a how-to on making a catapult from chopsticks -- but inspired readers may enjoy the challenge of figuring it out. A few plot threads hint at the direction of the next book, set up by a cliffhanger ending.
Did we miss something on diversity?
Research shows a connection between kids' healthy self-esteem and positive portrayals in media. That's why we've added a new "Diverse Representations" section to our reviews that will be rolling out on an ongoing basis. You can help us help kids by suggesting a diversity update.