Brother from a Box

illus. by Bruno Iacopo. 276p. S & S/Atheneum. 2012. Tr $16.99. ISBN 978-1-4424-2658-0; ebook $9.99. ISBN 978-1-4424-2660-3.
Gr 3–6—Matt Rambeau is living the dream of any red-blooded 12-year-old boy—his new brother is a robot. Norman arrives from France in a crate, and though he is a "bionically modified life-form," he looks just like a regular kid. Sure, he's a bit of a show-off, but Matt warms up to his role as protective older brother when he realizes that someone is trying to steal his new sibling. This book is bursting with kid appeal—the premise alone will grab many a reluctant reader, and comic-book-style illustrations only add to the story's charm. Unfortunately, the writing is somewhat flawed. The plot doesn't really take off until the thieves come into the story, but the main turnoff is Matt's narrative voice, which more closely resembles that of an eight-year-old than a middle schooler. Nonetheless, most tweens will gobble up descriptions of Norman's antics while wishing for a robot brother of their own.—Sam Bloom, Groesbeck Branch Library, Cincinnati, OH
Matt Rambeau never expected a robot for a brother, but this kind of thing happens when your dad is a brilliant computer scientist. His family fights about the surprise addition, only coming together when spies try to nab the bot. Matt's goofy narration has appeal, but a villainous subplot and easy resolution drown out the greater theme of what truly makes a family.

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