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by Carolyn Crimi ; illustrated by Corinna Luyken

Pub Date: Oct. 1st, 2019
ISBN: 978-0-7636-9493-7
Publisher: Candlewick

A science-loving 11-year-old moves to a new neighborhood and entertains herself by making robots out of found objects while wishing for real friends.

Penny Rose Mooney, daughter of an entomologist and a banker, eventually finds a soul mate in neighbor Lark Hinkle, a bird-watcher and birdhouse maker. Penny struggles with social interactions in ways that are suggestive of high-functioning autism-spectrum challenges and keeps several notebooks, including her most secret one—Conversation Starters. The girls team up to make roboTown, a metropolis of lights and discarded items cleverly reused. Their newfound friendship is tested when Penny, a statewide science-competition winner, is asked to join the Secret Science Society, leading her to break a promise made in their joint proclamation agreement. The two main girl characters are white; race and ethnicity are less clear for the other characters. A key boy character is immature, poorly behaved, and ultimately ridiculed. Otherwise, however, picture-book author Crimi infuses this unassuming transitional novel with compassion, humor, and a refreshing storyline in which girls organically weave a love for science into their everyday lives. Illustrations by Luyken add to the guileless sensibility.

A contemplation on the magic of friendship told with sweetness, simplicity, and science.

(Fiction. 8-11)