Appealing speculative fiction with memorable robot personalities.

THE LAST HUMAN

A trio of robot workers sets out to help a girl they believe to be the last of humankind.

Thirty years after robots put an end to humanity in order to save the planet, a girl appears at the narrator’s worksite. XR_935 is purpose-built to install solar panels in a large array. XR_935’s work companion, enormous, strong Ceeron, built to lift and carry, is a scholar of human jokes and colloquialisms. Smaller, zippy SkD connects wires and communicates via emoji pictographs. XR_935 itself is analytical, constantly running numbers, data, and measurements. Emma, a white-presenting human, explains that her family and others have been overcome by a flu epidemic in their hidden bunker. The lone survivor, she hopes to reach a point of help marked on a map. XR_935 grapples with the dilemma: It needs to violate the rules it knows in order to provide forbidden assistance to this Unknown LifeForm. Bacon deftly constructs an amiable but also moral and emotional self for XR_935 out of the data that the unlikely hero collects and considers. The result is an amusing and upbeat adventure, with glimpses of a fading human footprint on the planet and a suggestion that there’s hope for a shared AI and human future. An off note is sounded, however, in XR_935’s initial conjecture that Emma could be “a shaved gorilla” (to which Emma reacts, “not cool”), which unnecessarily deploys a phrase that some young readers will recognize as a racist one. After all, via data clips, XR_935 and its fellow robots have seen images of humans multiple times.

Appealing speculative fiction with memorable robot personalities. (Science fiction. 9-12)

Pub Date: Oct. 8, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-4197-3691-9

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Amulet/Abrams

Review Posted Online: July 14, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2019

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Is this the end? Well, no…the series will stagger on through at least one more scheduled sequel.

CAPTAIN UNDERPANTS AND THE TERRIFYING RETURN OF TIPPY TINKLETROUSERS

From the Captain Underpants series , Vol. 9

Sure signs that the creative wells are running dry at last, the Captain’s ninth, overstuffed outing both recycles a villain (see Book 4) and offers trendy anti-bullying wish fulfillment.

Not that there aren’t pranks and envelope-pushing quips aplenty. To start, in an alternate ending to the previous episode, Principal Krupp ends up in prison (“…a lot like being a student at Jerome Horwitz Elementary School, except that the prison had better funding”). There, he witnesses fellow inmate Tippy Tinkletrousers (aka Professor Poopypants) escape in a giant Robo-Suit (later reduced to time-traveling trousers). The villain sets off after George and Harold, who are in juvie (“not much different from our old school…except that they have library books here.”). Cut to five years previous, in a prequel to the whole series. George and Harold link up in kindergarten to reduce a quartet of vicious bullies to giggling insanity with a relentless series of pranks involving shaving cream, spiders, effeminate spoof text messages and friendship bracelets. Pilkey tucks both topical jokes and bathroom humor into the cartoon art, and ups the narrative’s lexical ante with terms like “pharmaceuticals” and “theatrical flair.” Unfortunately, the bullies’ sad fates force Krupp to resign, so he’s not around to save the Earth from being destroyed later on by Talking Toilets and other invaders…

Is this the end? Well, no…the series will stagger on through at least one more scheduled sequel. (Fantasy. 10-12)

Pub Date: Aug. 28, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-545-17534-0

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Scholastic

Review Posted Online: June 20, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2012

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A deftly told story that dramatizes how Danes appointed themselves bodyguards—not only for their king, who was in the habit...

NUMBER THE STARS

The author of the Anastasia books as well as more serious fiction (Rabble Starkey, 1987) offers her first historical fiction—a story about the escape of the Jews from Denmark in 1943.

Five years younger than Lisa in Carol Matas' Lisa's War (1989), Annemarie Johansen has, at 10, known three years of Nazi occupation. Though ever cautious and fearful of the ubiquitous soldiers, she is largely unaware of the extent of the danger around her; the Resistance kept even its participants safer by telling them as little as possible, and Annemarie has never been told that her older sister Lise died in its service. When the Germans plan to round up the Jews, the Johansens take in Annemarie's friend, Ellen Rosen, and pretend she is their daughter; later, they travel to Uncle Hendrik's house on the coast, where the Rosens and other Jews are transported by fishing boat to Sweden. Apart from Lise's offstage death, there is little violence here; like Annemarie, the reader is protected from the full implications of events—but will be caught up in the suspense and menace of several encounters with soldiers and in Annemarie's courageous run as courier on the night of the escape. The book concludes with the Jews' return, after the war, to homes well kept for them by their neighbors.

A deftly told story that dramatizes how Danes appointed themselves bodyguards—not only for their king, who was in the habit of riding alone in Copenhagen, but for their Jews. (Historical fiction. 9-12)

Pub Date: April 1, 1989

ISBN: 0547577095

Page Count: 156

Publisher: Houghton Mifflin

Review Posted Online: Oct. 17, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 1989

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