This is indeed a story for the modern child. The themes look at technology in its many forms, as well as, managing times and priorities to cover all the areas of interest that kids have today. The author has very cleverly woven a story about Luke, a year seven boy, intermingled with hugely topical themes of friendship, bullying, and grieving. Set in the Forest Shade Middle School, this book tells us about a boy who attends the school, but knows little about being part of a team.
Luke is a boy who juggles many different aspects of growing up. He is furious with his older brother whom he has previously been very close. Rob has enlisted in the Marines, and soon will be leaving home and completing his training. Luke cannot accept that Rob would leave the family (or him) and has refused to speak to him for some time. As the boys belong to a close and loving family, this is a great problem for the parents.
To lighten the sadness this family is feeling, the author has chosen to make the School that Luke attends, one of lighter points. The school mascot is seventy two (the coach’s Mum) and this sense of defeat is also reflected in a trophy cupboard at the front office which is empty. The Principal and teachers want to change that desperately, and so Luke is coopted into a robotics team, which will be competing in a tournament. Luke loves playing computer games, but has no idea how to manage and build a robot. His team members are also unsure, although the girls have already dressed the robot in sparkles and ribbons.
As the robotics meetings progress, another person is put on the team. He rarely speaks, and is known only as Lunchbox, because he always carries a lunchbox with him. Luke discovers him at the computer one day, programming the robot to complete tasks set for the judges to view. An uneasy friendship develops, and although no one else talks to Lunchbox, Luke eventually goes to his house after noticing his absence from school. It is here that a startling revelation is made, and although it doesn’t change the outcome of the competition, it shows Luke that there are many more important things in life than his narrow view of the world.
Forest Shade Middle School is destined not to win a trophy for the robotics team unfortunately, but an additional prize was awarded for “Most Gracious Defeat,” because they were able to look Missy the Cruel in the eyes and wish her well. Although their robot farted and knocked the building bricks over, they were not given additional points. There is a huge amount of thought provoking behaviour in this story, and Jennifer Brown has told it thoughtfully and well.