In this middle-grade novel, artificially intelligent teddy bears protect the son of a kidnapped scientist.
Dr. Peter Barnes is being held against his will in a secret lab beneath the Arctic tundra. His kidnappers—referred to as “government agents”—know that he’s mathematically proven the existence of other dimensions besides our own. They want him to create a portal to one of those dimensions, and they’re willing to harm Peter’s 10-year-old son, Timmy, if he doesn’t cooperate. Timmy, whose mother died four years ago, is an excellent student—in large part because he and his father’s frequent moves have kept him from having a social life. Peter often takes work-related trips, leaving Timmy with a nanny. He’s never been gone for a month before, however, and the new nanny, Ms. Gertrude, isn’t too friendly. In captivity, Peter creates a blue-lit portal that releases hundreds of monstrous, shadowy beings, led by an imposing entity named Total Dark, who wants to rule our dimension. Total Dark, who’s also capable of absorbing other objects and using them as weapons, detects that Peter has a son. It sends its minions after Timmy in order to coerce the doctor into opening an even larger portal, so that thousands more shadows may cross over. In response, Peter remotely activates Bear Company—five robotic teddy bears in his house, each programmed with a different specialty to protect Timmy. For his debut novel, Alexander launches a smart, action-oriented middle-grade series that’s designed to keep kids’ attention. His flair for fun description pops up in lines such as “this underground base…makes Area 51 look like a candy shop.” Vocabulary words, such as “rendezvous,” are defined in context and spelled phonetically (“ron-day-voo”) to boost the educational experience. Timmy also refreshingly uses a library—not just the internet—to begin his search for his father. The bears are color-coded and have names such as Bruiser and Sneak, which emphasize their capabilities. Adults may also notice Alexander’s cleverness in naming the humorous medical bear “Patch,” after famous real-life physician Hunter “Patch” Adams.
An adroitly conceived series opener that’s tailored to action fans.