A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this book.
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.
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 & Scariness
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.
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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.
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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.
Is It Any Good?
Peter Abrahams' characters are engaging, and the plot moves along nicely. 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. 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.
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.