Fuzzy

Book review by
Michael Berry, Common Sense Media
Fuzzy Book Poster Image
Satire of school surveillance hits the mark.

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this book.

Educational Value

Fuzzy's adventures in middle school aren't highly realistic, but they do demonstrate the concept of "fuzzy logic" and how artificial intelligence might work.

Positive Messages

Have empathy for new students. Students learn in different ways. 

Positive Role Models & Representations

Seventh-grader Max Zelaster wants to be a good student, but she doesn't understand why Vice Principal Barbara seems to have it in for her. Fuzzy wants to fit in, but it's hard for a robot to master the rules of middle school.

Violence & Scariness
Language

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Fuzzy is a clever middle school adventure about a robot being trained to act like a student, written by Origami Yoda creator Tom Angleberger and science fiction writer Paul Dellinger. The story focuses on the struggle between relaxed independence and constant monitoring by the authorities. Fuzzy resolves its central conflict with wit and aplomb.

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What's the story?

Maxine "Max" Zelaster can't understand why she's always getting in trouble with BARBARA, the digital student evaluation system at Vanguard One Middle School. She's excited, though, when she's selected to look after FUZZY as part of the school's Robot Integration Program. Her new robot classmate needs help learning how to survive seventh grade, but Max keeps earning demerits every time she tries to assist him. Max wants to help her robotic buddy, but she doesn't want to be expelled in the process.

Is it any good?

There are plenty of stories about robots who wish they were human, but this cheerful, charming, and easy-to-read novel offers a fresh outlook and some original plotting. Fuzzy focuses on some of the absurdities of middle school, and the "Big Brother" surveillance setup ensures that the stakes are high for Max and her robotic friend, Fuzzy. Reluctant readers may especially enjoy the fast pace and snappy dialogue, but anyone is likely to be captivated by this tale of kids learning to feel empathy for a new student.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about how Fuzzy demonstrates the different ways in which humans and machines "think." Do you think true artificial intelligence will ever be achieved?

  • Do all students learn in the same way? Do some do better with hands-on experience? What role should testing play in determining how well students are learning the material?

  • Do robots have rights? Should they be subject to reprogramming whenever their owners are unhappy with them?

Book details

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For kids who love science fiction and middle school stories

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