Young science-fiction aficionados will appreciate this story despite its malfunctions.

TIN

Isaac Asimov’s Three Laws of Robotics get a middle-grade twist.

Christopher thinks he’s a 12-year-old boy. He lives with Absalom, an unlicensed engineer who uses his robot inventions to grift vulnerable people out of their money, and an endearing cast of other mechanical creations. When Christopher gets hit by a car selflessly trying to rescue one of his metallic friends, he accidentally discovers that he is also a robot—a highly illegal one, as he’s clearly “ensouled”—and is promptly whisked away by men purporting to be from the government agency overseeing such matters. Worried, Christopher’s friends, constructs and flesh, go on a quest to save him. They even enlist the help of the most renowned engineer in history, the man who created Christopher to fill a void in his own family. Points of view bounce around confusingly, with prose that feels in need of some tightening and oiling. In this post–World War I England, all the nonmetallic characters seem to be white given that even the flesh affixed to robots is described as a “white mixture” that develops “a fleshy pallor.” Hard-to-follow action sequences and pseudoscientific terminology blunt the emotional stakes, which are felt more in the side characters than the main quest.

Young science-fiction aficionados will appreciate this story despite its malfunctions. (Science fiction. 8-12)

Pub Date: March 26, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-338-27755-5

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Chicken House/Scholastic

Review Posted Online: Dec. 5, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2019

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Readers can still rely on this series to bring laughs.

WRECKING BALL

From the Diary of a Wimpy Kid series , Vol. 14

The Heffley family’s house undergoes a disastrous attempt at home improvement.

When Great Aunt Reba dies, she leaves some money to the family. Greg’s mom calls a family meeting to determine what to do with their share, proposing home improvements and then overruling the family’s cartoonish wish lists and instead pushing for an addition to the kitchen. Before bringing in the construction crew, the Heffleys attempt to do minor maintenance and repairs themselves—during which Greg fails at the work in various slapstick scenes. Once the professionals are brought in, the problems keep getting worse: angry neighbors, terrifying problems in walls, and—most serious—civil permitting issues that put the kibosh on what work’s been done. Left with only enough inheritance to patch and repair the exterior of the house—and with the school’s dismal standardized test scores as a final straw—Greg’s mom steers the family toward moving, opening up house-hunting and house-selling storylines (and devastating loyal Rowley, who doesn’t want to lose his best friend). While Greg’s positive about the move, he’s not completely uncaring about Rowley’s action. (And of course, Greg himself is not as unaffected as he wishes.) The gags include effectively placed callbacks to seemingly incidental events (the “stress lizard” brought in on testing day is particularly funny) and a lampoon of after-school-special–style problem books. Just when it seems that the Heffleys really will move, a new sequence of chaotic trouble and property destruction heralds a return to the status quo. Whew.

Readers can still rely on this series to bring laughs. (Graphic/fiction hybrid. 8-12)

Pub Date: Nov. 5, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-4197-3903-3

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Amulet/Abrams

Review Posted Online: Nov. 19, 2019

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Dizzyingly silly.

CAPTAIN UNDERPANTS AND THE TYRANNICAL RETALIATION OF THE TURBO TOILET 2000

From the Captain Underpants series , Vol. 11

The famous superhero returns to fight another villain with all the trademark wit and humor the series is known for.

Despite the title, Captain Underpants is bizarrely absent from most of this adventure. His school-age companions, George and Harold, maintain most of the spotlight. The creative chums fool around with time travel and several wacky inventions before coming upon the evil Turbo Toilet 2000, making its return for vengeance after sitting out a few of the previous books. When the good Captain shows up to save the day, he brings with him dynamic action and wordplay that meet the series’ standards. The Captain Underpants saga maintains its charm even into this, the 11th volume. The epic is filled to the brim with sight gags, toilet humor, flip-o-ramas and anarchic glee. Holding all this nonsense together is the author’s good-natured sense of harmless fun. The humor is never gross or over-the-top, just loud and innocuous. Adults may roll their eyes here and there, but youngsters will eat this up just as quickly as they devoured every other Underpants episode.

Dizzyingly silly. (Humor. 8-10)

Pub Date: Aug. 26, 2014

ISBN: 978-0-545-50490-4

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Scholastic

Review Posted Online: June 4, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2014

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