- The Winter of the Robots by Kurtis Scaletta
Jim’s sick of playing wingman on his buddy Oliver’s robot science fair projects, so he eagerly accepts pretty classmate Rochelle’s invitation to work with her on otter observations instead. He discovers all too soon that Rocky is really after his access to the cameras his father sells in his home security business to better observe the [End Page 236] otters, but Jim nonetheless delivers and helps install the goods at the riverside junkyard, the site of the otter project. Things take a turn when classmate Dmitri steals the cameras, the cameras are then stolen by someone else, Dmitri goes missing, and the junkyard turns out be the burned out site of a government project on military robotics. The original project may have shut down, but some of the surviving abandoned robots have reprogrammed themselves with a mission to destroy, and it’s up to the kids to pool their robotics skills to take out the metal warriors and save the world, or at least their corner of North Minneapolis. Scaletta plays to middle-grade gearheads, delivering the expected epic junkyard battle between marauding monsters and savvy kids, but he crafts a solid mystery, involving the death of a local eccentric and some high end auto theft, that will also lure in the less technically inclined.