Two audacious children, a pet cat and a homeless dog overcome an evil scientist in Larson’s first series installment for middle-grade readers.
Winnie Talisman has just invented a singing robot, which she intends to enter in a contest at the Science, Technology, Engineering and Math fair; the winner of the competition will get to meet the president of the United States. The only problem is that a flock of pigeons steals Winnie’s robot, just as her brother helps attach a name tag to its base. It just so happens that a homeless dog, Amulet, has spotted the robot in a pigeon house in Silver Park. Winnie and her brother, Winslow, must get it back before an evil scientist named Dr. Lodestone uses the robot as part of his plan to turn metal into gold. The book’s plot wouldn’t look out of place in an episode of Scooby-Doo, Where Are You! The high-spirited kids face a series of hair-raising scares, including a battle with a mechanical hawk that can turn things into molten, metallic scrap. The wacky adventure manages to fit together in the end, with each member of the eccentric cast playing a valuable part. The story is engaging enough to keep readers guessing until the end, with plenty of intriguing, man-made creations, including “Crazy Eyes,” the aforementioned hawk; Winnie’s robot, “Sing Master,” who can sing music backwards; and a computer tablet loaded with apps that can seemingly do anything—including shrinking and enlarging people. In a nice touch at the end, Winnie explains the reason why she was so determined to enter her robot in the fair in the first place, much to her brother’s surprise.
A well-paced story with all the ingredients to keep kids enthralled.