A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this book.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that House of Robots is the start of a new series primarily from James Patterson, the prolific author of series including Middle School and I Funny and his frequent coauthor Chris Grabenstein. With its many black-and-white illustrations (by Juliana Neufeld) and straightforward story line, House of Robots is a good fit for reluctant readers. It's pretty low on violence, with a couple of small fires set at the elementary school and some instances of bullying -- mostly mild name-calling, and a boy's face is Super Glued to his desk. The bullying is well-contrasted with an anti-bullying, pro-acceptance message. Two sad parts involve a beloved robot going missing and coming back in pieces and the main character's sister, who suffers from an autoimmune disorder, being rushed to the hospital briefly for a high fever. Expect more than a few references to Notre Dame University (the main character's brilliant scientist mother is a professor there) and handfuls of other product and media mentions.
- Parents say
- Kids say
What's the story?
Sammy is beyond mortified when his brilliant scientist mom sends him to school with her latest robot creation, named E -- especially when everything goes so spectacularly wrong, starting with a nonstop spouting of facts in every class and ending with a fire that cleared out the whole school. As if he didn't get teased enough by No. 1 bully Cooper Elliot. Mom promises to fix E so he'll blend better with his classmates, but of course Sammy's skeptical that any version of E would be an improvement. But E 2.0 is much better, especially when all the kids see E do tricks on his specially made bike and help out everyone at school. Sammy's just about to admit to E that he really does appreciate him -- especially after some serious help with his bully problem -- when E goes missing. Who could have taken him? And what will Sammy do without him?
Is it any good?
HOUSE OF ROBOTS is a simple story meant to capitalize on kids' love of robots to draw them in. Sammy and his family are intriguing characters -- the book gets extra points for having a brilliant scientist mom -- and so are the robots who take care of them. The message of accepting your own differences and those of your friends is always welcome, especially as these readers contemplate the increasingly more complicated social terrain of upper-elementary school. The fact that Sammy sticks by his awkward friend Trip speaks volumes about him.
The framework is solid for a nice long series, but the storytelling is sometimes sloppy. Sammy, as the narrator, even jokes about getting ahead of himself and needing an outline. Worse than that, though, are some characters who are never introduced and become the surprise antagonists at the end. That kind of thing is easily fixed by a scene early on -- and should have been. Reluctant readers deserve carefully written stories, too.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about robots. Do we have the technology to create a robot as sophisticated as E? Or even the cleaning robot? If you had a robot, what would you like it to do? (Besides all your homework, of course.)
What made you pick up House of Robots? Will you read other books in the series? What do you like best about it? What do you like least?
How is life difficult for Sammy's sister Maddie? How does Sammy help her? Why does he admire her?
- Authors: James Patterson, Chris Grabenstein
- Illustrator: Juliana Neufeld
- Genre: Family Life
- Topics: Brothers and Sisters, Friendship, Misfits and Underdogs, Robots
- Book type: Fiction
- Publisher: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
- Publication date: November 24, 2014
- Publisher's recommended age(s): 8 - 12
- Number of pages: 352
- Available on: Nook, Audiobook (unabridged), Hardback, iBooks, Kindle
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