THE WINTER OF THE ROBOTS

What if the robot apocalypse was beginning— subtly—in your own neighborhood?

Blue flashes and sinister clanking noises emanating from the junk abandoned near the otter habitat that Jim and his science-fair partner Rocky (short for Rochelle) plan to observe via remote camera turn out to be the remains of a defense research project. The fierce, Taser-armed, self-reprogramming dinobots don’t make more than a fleeting appearance until the penultimate, climactic chapter, but since Jim and his friends take up robot construction and programming when the ottercams are stolen, it becomes clear early on that their skills will be put to use in ways larger than a local robot-fighting competition. The burnt-out buildings of the research company highlight the North Minneapolis setting of an urban neighborhood struggling with contemporary economic hardship. Scaletta provides his seventh-grade protagonists with complex back stories and gives them a fair amount of freedom to roam, sophisticated understanding of the adult world and plenty of smarts for learning how to code instructions for semi-autonomous robots. These young teens’ own autonomy is a given—parents and adults close to them remain clueless. By the time Jim and his friends confront the robot menace with their own impressively armored fighting creation, they have mastered a fair amount of coding and hardware technology in robotics. A deft mix of middle school drama and edgy techno thrills. (Science fiction. 11-14)

 

Pub Date: Oct. 8, 2013

ISBN: 978-0-307-93186-3

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: Aug. 14, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2013

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Readers will be irresistibly drawn into Harry's world by GrandPre's comic illustrations and Rowling's expert combination of...

HARRY POTTER AND THE CHAMBER OF SECRETS

From the Harry Potter series , Vol. 2

This sequel to Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone (1998) brings back the doughty young wizard-in-training to face suspicious adults, hostile classmates, fretful ghosts, rambunctious spells, giant spiders, and even an avatar of Lord Voldemort, the evil sorcerer who killed his parents, while saving the Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry from a deadly, mysterious menace.

Ignoring a most peculiar warning, Harry kicks off his second year at Hogwarts after a dreadful summer with his hateful guardians, the Dursleys, and is instantly cast into a whirlwind of magical pranks and misadventures, culminating in a visit to the hidden cavern where his friend Ron's little sister Ginny lies, barely alive, in a trap set by his worst enemy. Surrounded by a grand mix of wise and inept faculty, sneering or loyal peers—plus an array of supernatural creatures including Nearly Headless Nick and a huge, serpentine basilisk—Harry steadily rises to every challenge, and though he plays but one match of the gloriously chaotic field game Quidditch, he does get in plenty of magic and a bit of swordplay on his way to becoming a hero again.

Readers will be irresistibly drawn into Harry's world by GrandPre's comic illustrations and Rowling's expert combination of broad boarding school farce and high fantasy. (Fiction. 11-14)

Pub Date: June 2, 1999

ISBN: 0-439-06486-4

Page Count: 341

Publisher: Scholastic

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 1999

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Rich and strange (and kitted out with an eye-catching cover), but stronger in the set pieces than the internal logic.

THE SCHOOL FOR GOOD AND EVIL

From the School for Good and Evil series , Vol. 1

Chainani works an elaborate sea change akin to Gregory Maguire’s Wicked (1995), though he leaves the waters muddied.

Every four years, two children, one regarded as particularly nice and the other particularly nasty, are snatched from the village of Gavaldon by the shadowy School Master to attend the divided titular school. Those who survive to graduate become major or minor characters in fairy tales. When it happens to sweet, Disney princess–like Sophie and  her friend Agatha, plain of features, sour of disposition and low of self-esteem, they are both horrified to discover that they’ve been dropped not where they expect but at Evil and at Good respectively. Gradually—too gradually, as the author strings out hundreds of pages of Hogwarts-style pranks, classroom mishaps and competitions both academic and romantic—it becomes clear that the placement wasn’t a mistake at all. Growing into their true natures amid revelations and marked physical changes, the two spark escalating rivalry between the wings of the school. This leads up to a vicious climactic fight that sees Good and Evil repeatedly switching sides. At this point, readers are likely to feel suddenly left behind, as, thanks to summary deus ex machina resolutions, everything turns out swell(ish).

Rich and strange (and kitted out with an eye-catching cover), but stronger in the set pieces than the internal logic. (Fantasy. 11-13)

Pub Date: May 14, 2013

ISBN: 978-0-06-210489-2

Page Count: 496

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Feb. 13, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2013

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