Tag Archives: robots

Review: Spare Parts (Young Readers’ Edition) by Joshua Davis and Reyna Grande

Spare Parts Young Reader's Edition by Joshua Davis cover shows a cartoon drawing of a square machine with the photographs of four teens' faces around it.

Spare Parts: The True Story of Four Undocumented Teenagers, One Ugly Robot, and an Impossible Dream (Young Readers’ Edition)
Joshua Davis and Reyna Grande
Farrar, Straus, & Giroux
Published May 30, 2023

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About Spare Parts

A riveting true story about dreams, dedication, and an amazing robot named Stinky, based on Joshua Davis’ New York Times bestseller and now adapted for young readers by bestselling Mexican American author Reyna Grande.

In 2004, four undocumented Mexican teenagers arrived at the national underwater robotics championship at the University of California, Santa Barbara. No one had ever told Oscar, Cristian, Luis, or Lorenzo that they would amount to much―until two inspiring high school science teachers convinced the boys to enter the competition. Up against some of the best collegiate engineers in the country, this team of underdogs from Phoenix, Arizona, scraped together spare parts and a few small donations to astound not only the competition’s judges but themselves, too.

Adapted by Reyna Grande―author of the acclaimed memoir The Distance Between Us about her experience as an undocumented child immigrant―this young readers’ edition of Joshua Davis’s New York Times bestseller showcases these students’ ingenuity and courage in the face of seemingly insurmountable odds. Timely and empowering, Spare Parts is an accessible introduction to STEM, immigration, and the reality of the American Dream.

My Review

I really enjoyed this book. It’s broken down into short sections about each boy’s life, telling of their early childhood in Mexico, what circumstances brought them and their families to the United States, and what the transition to school in the US was like for them. In each boy’s chapters, we learn about their family life and how robotics inspired them in different ways.

For example, Lorenzo grew up watching his godfather fix cars with few tools and lots of ingenuity. The experience taught him to think outside the box and find solutions that work rather than reaching for expensive, flashy materials. Meanwhile, Cristian developed a love for home improvement shows, which taught him how to build things and use different types of tools. Oscar excelled in JROTC, where he learned how to be a great leader and get things done.

The pacing of the book was excellent as well. I felt like the narrative spent just enough time on different parts of the story. Each scene was a puzzle piece, set in place and adding to the picture, taking shape as I read. The short sections and clear writing made this one a really fast read.

I wish there had been some pictures of the team and the robot included in the book. I’m reading a pre-release version, so it’s possible there are in the book available for purchase. I’m not sure, but I hope so.

All in all, I think SPARE PARTS (Young Readers Edition) is an inspiring story, perfect for readers interested in STEM or anyone looking for a heartwarming story about an underdog team rising to victory.

Content Notes

Recommended for Ages 10 to 14.

All four boys are from Mexican families. Three boys and their families are undocumented and living in the US. One, Luis, was eventually able to get a green card.

Profanity/Crude Language Content
Mild profanity used very infrequently.

Romance/Sexual Content

Spiritual Content
One boy prays to the Virgin Mary before the competition.

Violent Content
One boy gets into fights as a result of kids picking on him. All of them experience bullying at one time.

Drug Content
One boy’s father drinks alcohol often, leading him to avoid being home as much as possible.

Note: This post contains affiliate links, which do not cost you anything to use, but which help support this blog. I received a free copy of SPARE PARTS in exchange for my honest review.

Review: The Trouble with Robots by Michelle Mohrweiss

The Trouble with Robots
Michelle Mohrweiss
Published September 27, 2022

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About The Trouble with Robots

Evelyn strives for excellence. Allie couldn’t care less. Together, these polar opposites must work together if they have any hope of saving their school’s robotics program.

Eighth-graders Evelyn and Allie are in trouble. Evelyn’s constant need for perfection has blown some fuses among her robotics teammates, and she’s worried nobody’s taking the upcoming competition seriously. Allie is new to school, and she’s had a history of short-circuiting on teachers and other kids.

So when Allie is assigned to the robotics team as a last resort, all Evelyn can see is just another wrench in the works! But as Allie confronts a past stricken with grief and learns to open up, the gears click into place as she discovers that Evelyn’s teammates have a lot to offer—if only Evelyn allowed them to participate in a role that plays to their strengths.

Can Evelyn learn to let go and listen to what Allie has to say? Or will their spot in the competition go up in smoke along with their school’s robotics program and Allie’s only chance at redemption?

An excellent pick for STEAM enthusiasts, this earnestly told narrative features a dual point of view and casually explores Autistic and LGBTQ+ identities.

My Review

What a fantastic, fun book! I’ve never been part of a robotics team, but this book makes the experience very accessible and highlights the fun as well. I really liked the characters and their individual personalities. It wasn’t hard to keep track of who was who once I got a few chapters into the story, because each one was so different than the others.

I really liked both Allie and Evelyn’s characters. They both wrestled with some heavy issues, but they had good support. As they took the risks of opening up, they were surprised by the way their friends came alongside them and accepted them as they were, while still asking for healthy boundaries and accountability.

The scenes showing the team working together were a really bright spot in the book. Once they all figured out how to come together, the whole story seemed to kick up a notch or two. I loved the way the stakes kept getting higher, and I was definitely on pins and needles as they went to that last competition. I loved how the lessons they’d learned about working together and supporting one another became even more critically important in those final scenes, too.

All in all, THE TROUBLE WITH ROBOTS was such a fun book to read. I enjoyed it a lot, and I’m really glad I had a chance to read it.

Content Notes for The Trouble with Robots

Recommended for Ages 8 to 12.

Allie’s parents were killed in a car crash, and she’s being raised by her grandmother. She doesn’t feel attracted to anyone romantically. Evelyn is autistic and raised by her two moms. She also is attracted to both boys and girls. Other members of the robotics team identify as LGBTQIA+.

Profanity/Crude Language Content

Romance/Sexual Content
Two boys on the robotics team are dating.

Spiritual Content
Allie has conversations in her mind with her parents when she misses them most.

Violent Content
A boy at school picks on other kids, calling them names and threatening to beat them up.

Drug Content

Note: This post contains affiliate links, which do not cost you anything to use, but which help support this blog. I received a free copy of THE TROUBLE WITH ROBOTS in exchange for my honest review.