Sunday, February 7, 2010

How to Say Goodbye in Robot, by Natalie Standiford

How to Say Goodbye in Robot, by Natalie Standiford. New York: Scholastic Press, 2009. ISBN-10: 0545107083; ISBN-13: 978-0545107082. 288 p.

Plot Summary
Beatrice is used to moving a lot. She was expecting her first friend to be one of the usuals: the cheery, popular type. Instead, she is befriended by the class loner, Jonah. Ghost Boy. He hasn't made a new friend since third grade, but he makes an exception for Bea. As they become friends through calling into a late-night radio show, Bea learns more about Jonah's life and the reason he is called Ghost Boy. Can their friendship help Jonah work out his emotional demons?

Critical Evaluation
This book is humorous and packed with cultural references. Focused more on psychological impact rather than action-oriented, the narrator's fresh, original commentary helps the reader identify with Bea and her story. The minor characters are quirky and interesting, and the setting is believable.

Reader’s Annotation
Bea and Jonah are outsiders. They have an unconventional friendship. Jonah's brother died when he was young--or did he? As Bea and Jonah investigate the mystery, they learn about real friendship and the things that can strain it.

Author Information
Natalie Standiford was born in Baltimore, Maryland, and majored in Russian Language and Literature in college. In the Children's Book department at Random House, she worked as an editorial assistant and Assistant Editor for three years, until she quit and became a full-time freelance writer. She plays bass in the all-female rock band Ruffian, as well as in an all-YA-writer band Tiger Beat. She lives in New York City. (Information from the author's website.)

Natalie says, "The idea for the story came from something I heard at a high school reunion which made me start thinking about my high school years and my classmates in a new way. I grew up in Baltimore and went to a small private school like the one in the book, and I loved the intimacy of it. But looking back after many years, I wondered what would it feel like to find yourself in such a closed world when you’re not used to it–to be new in a school where everyone has known each other forever, in a city that can feel like a small town. I wondered how the world I grew up in would look to an outsider. So I made Beatrice that outsider and set her on her way."

Realistic Fiction: Friendship

Curriculum Ties
Sociology: disabilities, platonic friendship, grief and loss

Booktalking Ideas
1. How Jonah feels about losing his brother.
2. Bea's and Jonah's feelings of loneliness and being weird.

Reading Level/Interest Age
Grades 9+

Challenge Issues
Some references to sexual activity.
Underage alcohol and drug use.

I included this book because it was nominated for a Cybil award in 2009. More information about the Cybil awards can be found here.


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