‘Once upon a time there was – and still is – a school called Northwest Southeast Central School.
Northwest Southeast Central School is located in the southeast of a town called Northwest, which is located to the northwest of a big city called Central City. You don’t need to know where Central City is, because it’s not important. What is important is the school. In this school there is a classroom. And in that classroom there is a fifth-grade class. Most important of all, in that fifth-grade class there is a student named Henry McThrottle who likes to tell stories.
That’s where I come in.
I’m Henry McThrottle…and this is my latest story.
Robot Riot! is book four in the ‘Schooling Around’ series from Andy Griffiths. In this instalment, narrator Henry McThrottle introduces the reader to Roberta Flywheel, new girl in school. She seems to be too good to be true. At first only Henry suspects there’s something not quite right about Roberta, but gradually he convinces his friends too. Henry is sure that Roberta is hiding something, and it seems like their wacky teacher Mr Brainfright might know more than he’s letting on. And it’s true, by the end of Robot Riot!, things have changed at Northwest Southwest Central School, and it’s not just the students. Added extras include stickers and information about other titles in the series. The endpapers also feature covers of other Griffiths books. Instead of a ‘blurb’ the back cover features a ‘Robot Riot! test’, tempting readers to read the book to find the answers.
Robot Riot!is a riot! In true Griffiths style, the pace is furious, the chapters short, the voice sincere and deadpan, and the main character, Henry, takes the reader on a wild ride. From the absurdity of the school’s location to the ending lines where Henry assures the reader ‘it’s all true’ ‘Robot Riot! is go-go-go. There are ‘important lessons’ from Mr Brainfright, lists, and red herrings. Reluctant readers will find the short chapters manageable and more confident readers will want to read ‘just one more chapter, just one…’. It’s not all frivolity and fun though. There’s a theme here, about new kids and the challenges of adjusting to a new school and new classmates. Recommended for mid- to upper-primary readers.
Robot Riot! (Schooling Around), Andy Griffiths
Pan Macmillan 2009
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review by Claire Saxby, Children’s Author