March 24, 2018

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Chapter Books: Shape-Shifting Robots and Sweet Slices of Life | December 2017 Xpress Reviews

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Bott, Adrian C. Antarctic Attack. ISBN 9781610676342.

––––. The Grabbem Getaway. ISBN 9781610676335.

––––. Robotic Rumble. ISBN 9781610676366.

––––. Tropical Tangle. ISBN 9781610676359.

ea vol: illus. by Andy Isaac. 144p. (Axel & Beast). Kane Miller. Sept. 2017. pap. $5.99.

Gr 2-4 –Homeschooler Axel Brayburn keeps to himself, playing video games in his bedroom and rarely going outside until the day a large robot crashes into his life. BEAST, a Battle-Enabled Armored Shifter Transport, escaped from Grabbem Industries because he objected to the nefarious missions the company wanted him to execute. Axel’s mom, Nedra, a mechanic, is less than enthusiastic about their guest until BEAST projects a hologram of Agent Omega, a Grabbem employee dedicated to sabotaging the evil corporation and their environment-destroying endeavors. Agent Omega enlists Axel to utilize his gaming skills, pilot BEAST, and save the earth. The first volume, The Grabbem Getaway, introduces Axel, a dark-skinned boy who is homeschooled because he was badly bullied at school. (His father mysteriously disappeared one night.) The next two books in the series, Antarctic Attack and Tropical Tangle, involve Alex and BEAST being deployed by Agent Omega to stop Grabbem’s attacks on the environment. In Robotic Rumble, Axel teams up with Yumi Minamoto and her own shape-shifting robot to keep Grabbem away from a dangerous experimental reactor. The books are loaded with cartoon violence. Serious injuries are nonexistent as Axel repeatedly bests his nemesis, the spoiled Gus Grabbem, Jr. Only in volume four does the series return to the mystery of Axel’s missing father, as well as introduce some character development for Axel, as he learns to make nonrobotic friends. VERDICT These action-packed volumes with large type and frequent illustrations will be popular with emerging and reluctant readers, particularly young gamers.–Nancy Nadig, Penn Manor School District, Lancaster, PA

Murray, Martine. Henrietta and the Perfect Night. 96p. Tr $12.99. ISBN 9781760290245.

––––. Henrietta, the Greatest Go-Getter. 288p. pap. $14.99. ISBN 9781760112417.

ea vol: illus. by Martine Murray. (Henrietta). Allen & Unwin. Oct. 2017.

Gr 2-5 –Henrietta is a self-described “great go-getter” and “big thinker.” She lives with her mum and dad (and eventually her little brother), and each of the books, divided into chaptered vignettes, follows Henrietta through life-changing adventures or imaginative romps. In Henrietta and the Perfect Night, the girl and her parents are preparing for the arrival of a new baby. Henrietta feels uncertain, as she’s used to being the only child. She is also starting school and has some feelings about that as well. Henrietta: The Greatest Go-Getter combines three books: Henrietta, There’s No One Better, Henrietta the Great Go-Getter, and Henrietta Gets a Letter. In each, Henrietta firmly explores the worlds of her imagination. Best friend Olive Higgie is often at her side. Each collection repeats Henrietta’s likes (chocolate ripple cake) and dislikes (waiting), in the vein of “Charlie and Lola.” The Australian setting means terms such as plaits and gum boots may be new to U.S. audiences, especially beginning readers. In general, the higher level vocabulary makes this series more of a read-aloud than an independent read. The design of these books is superb: from the colorful endpapers to the two-page spreads and use of pattern, they are friendly and engaging. VERDICT A charming read-aloud selection.–Stacy Dillon, LREI, New York

This article was published in School Library Journal's December 2017 issue. Subscribe today and save up to 35% off the regular subscription rate.

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