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Henry and the Incredibly Incorrigible, Inconveniently Intelligent Smart Human [Paperback]

L A Messina
4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
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Book Description

7 Dec 2012
Henry Jacobson, a robot in the 13th upgrade, can’t process the data. Sure, humans can follow simple instructions to sweep floors and do other menial tasks that robots don’t want to do, but they can’t do anything complicated. Humans are just simple gadgets invented to make the lives of robots easier. Then his dad’s boss gives them a HueManTech ETC-420- GX-2 and Henry’s life is turned upside down. This human unit is like no other. It can read, play video games and, it seems to Henry, think for itself. In fact, the more time Henry spends with the ETC, the more the gadget seems less like a human unit and more like a full-fledged robot with thoughts and feelings. But that’s not possible. Is it? And if the ETC really is as smart as it seems, Henry can’t help but wonder: Is the human just the next-generation technology or a secret government weapon that will ultimately destroy them all?

Product details

  • Paperback: 176 pages
  • Publisher: Tater Tot Books (7 Dec 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0984901841
  • ISBN-13: 978-0984901845
  • Product Dimensions: 20.3 x 12.7 x 1 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)

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Product Description

About the Author

L.A. Messina is the author of several novels. She lives in New York city with her husband and sons.

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Front Cover | Copyright | Table of Contents | Excerpt | Back Cover
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
By K. J. Noyes TOP 500 REVIEWER
Format:Paperback
4.5 stars.

At the time of writing, this has no other Amazon reviews. I'm surprised, as this is a highly enjoyable, clever and very funny children's book, with robots and humans switching roles to play master and servant.

I can only imagine that the title might put readers off, and if I'm honest, I would have chosen somehow a little more pithy myself. And a slightly more colourful cover (though I do like the style of illustration that continues on each chapter page).

So why should you and your 7-12 year old give this a go? Well. If they like robots, it's a winner. In a world of robots, in the town of Sodium Falls, Henry is a bit of an oddball - damaged by a virus he's not as fast-processing as his classmates. And he's on his "thirteenth upgrade", a time when "you finally had all your standard apps but not the skills to fully control them". Sound familiar?

Henry lives at 27 Disk Drive (tee hee) with his father, head of the Upgrade Processing Department and mother, a managerial model-bot and owner of the Shine Bar. The fun begins when they agree to take on a new HueMan helper (after the last rampaged through the beauty shop with various cleaning items). Henry is thrilled - everyone else has one. But from the moment it arrives, Henry notices his human seems much more capable and self-aware than any human he's ever heard of. It can read, argue, make up words. Is it... Thinking?

It's a funny and witty topsy-turvy tale. Kids will love pointing out the wordplay. There's lots of smirks for adults too. I loved the human's instruction manual (complete with illustrations). The 'cerebral cortexinator' for example, "if worked too hard develops a 'headache'". For every problem (a leaking nose, waste disposal issues, a bot must "contact service provider".
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Amazon.com: 4.0 out of 5 stars  7 reviews
6 of 8 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Binary solo! 31 Dec 2012
By E. R. Bird - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
Every year I swear to myself that I'll review at least one self-published book written for kids. And every year I manage to do it, but only after sifting through countless manuscripts. The process is as close as I ever come to living the swanky life of an unpaid publishing company intern. Your slush piles ain't got nothin' on my slush piles. Why do I do it? Because every once in a great while I hit gold. Pure, uncut, rarified gold, my friend. I find a book that really is remarkable. Really is worth reading. Finding a picture book that falls into that category is hard enough. Chapter books for middle grade readers can be even trickier. The last time it happened was back in 2008 when I reviewed B.B. Wurge's "Billy and the Birdfrogs". Now at the tail end of 2012 I find the remarkable, hilarious, exciting, and downright diamond-in-the-rough worthy "Henry and the Incredibly Incorrigible, Inconveniently Intelligent Smart Human." A smart little novel with a catchy hook I've not seen in a book for kids before, hand this one to the next kid who comes you whining that their teacher told them to read something "science fiction". They'll moan no more, guaranteed.

They say the 13th upgrade is the hardest. Insufficient comfort for a robot like Henry, though. Because of a bug in his system Henry just can't keep up with the other kids in his class. Things seem pretty gloomy until good news arrives. Henry's dad has just received a fantastic new appliance. It's the HueManTech ETC-420- GX-2, a top of the line human meant to do menial tasks around the home. Trouble is, the human's good. Too good. And the more time Henry spends with it, the more he comes to suspect that this human might be so smart it could be used as a weapon by the government itself. What's a kid to do when his best friend's an appliance? Save the day, of course.

The basic premise that robots are the productive members of society and humans merely their appliances is a joke that by all rights should get old fast. What's remarkable is that not only does Messina pull it off, she turns it into world building. Slowly you begin to envision the fields where wild consoles are harvested and turned into video games. Where prisons are kept at ridiculously high temperatures to keep rogue robots in check. Where fire isn't a concern but water can be death itself. To make the idea of robots human and humans robots, Messina had to be extraordinarily clear from page one onward about where Henry lived and what his world was like. At the same time, she sets him in a space that's familiar to many a kid reader. What child can't relate to being called on in class and unable to conjure up the correct answer at a moment's notice? That's the sly trick of the novel. It couches the strange in the familiar and ends up the stronger for it.

If the child reader is anything like myself then they'll begin the book by trying to figure out if this is an entirely alternate reality, or if it's some kind of post-apocalyptic world where robots have taken over and humanity has long since been forgotten. I kept wavering between the two possibilities for the better part of the book. This feeling was fed into by little hints Messina posed from time to time. For example, at one point E asks Henry where original ideas come from if robots are programmed to replicate only the same ideas over and over again. Henry finds this to be an impossible paradox, suggesting perhaps that robots aren't the be all and end all. Later it becomes clear that there may be a conspiracy surrounding the creation of humans in the first place. I won't ruin for you whether one theory or another was correct. Regardless, it satisfies sufficiently.

There are some distinct horrorific elements to the tale, but they're told as matter-of-factly as if this were everyday fare. Humans that fail in their programming are sent to be compacted, easy peasy. It sort of has a slow creeping horror when you hear that. And really it isn't until E is on the precipice of his own compaction that it's drilled home to the reader. I had visions of the song "Worthless" from "The Brave Little Toaster" as all this happened. Or maybe "Soylent Green". The funny thing is that though Messina ratchets up the tension, you don't get a clear sense of the bloody process involved. And that is a-okay with me.

Alas, due to the number of times the book repeats the human's official name of HueManTech ETC-420- GX-2, I'm afraid this won't exactly be a readaloud, unless the reader is willing to shorten the little human's name "E" or "ETC" for the bulk of the book. Aside from that it's a pretty compact, smart bit of a novel. The kind of book that'll make kids question the ease with which they treat their own iPads, iPods, and other handy dandy devices like things without feelings. A great discussion topic would be a thought about a next generation tablet so smart it has opinions of its own. Hey, man. Stranger things could happen. Just read this book if you don't believe me.

For ages 9-12.
5.0 out of 5 stars A World In Reverse! 6 July 2014
By Author Aileen Stewart - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
Once I started this book, I could hardly put it down. The story takes us to a world where robots are the predominate life force and humans are created to do the menial tasks robots do not want to perform. Robots have to be careful though, because sometimes the drooling zombie like humans go beserko. This is Henry's greatest fear until he gets to know his human and finds, much to his surprise, that he is quite intelligent.

The adventure that they embark on when they run away together is fraught full of the kind of danger that keeps you on the edge of your seat while reading, and the secrets they discover will amaze even the most skeptical of readers. Miss Messina has created a wonderful piece of fiction that is sure to keep both boys and girls between the ages of nine and thirteen intrigued from beginning to end.
3.0 out of 5 stars This DOES compute into a fun kids book that should have them laughing 24 April 2014
By W. McCoy - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Kindle Edition
Henry Jacobsen is a robot in the 13th upgrade. He's trying to fit in, but every time he tries to make a calculation, he makes a lot of noise, which has gotten him the nickname "Hank Crank." He helps his mother out in her robot beauty parlor, The Shine Bar. When a human goes berserker in the store one day, Henry becomes pretty leary of these strange inventions.

One night, Henry's father's boss shows up and wants the family to test out the company's new model, the ETC-420-GX-2. When it turns out to be a boy the same basic age as Henry, will they become friends or rivals? What happens when the human starts making up words and thinking for himself (most humans are thick-headed and walk around drooling)? Could this new invention be more than Henry or his family are aware?

It's a really clever book that switches the role of humans and technology. There is a lot of funny stuff that kids should like a lot. At times it felt like a book that a kid would write, so I'm sure they'd like it as well. I felt like the story lagged in a few places, but I found Henry and his human, E, to be likeable enough characters. Imaginative and fun.

I was given a review copy of this book by Tater Tot Books and Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. Thank you for allowing me to read this fun book.
5.0 out of 5 stars A Masterful Book for Young Readers 25 Mar 2014
By Amazon Customer - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Kindle Edition
First off, this book has a whopping long, intense title. But don't let the title discourage your young reader (or yourself) because the story itself is an easy and immensely enjoyable read.

This story follows Henry, a young robot who's parents acquire a human to help them out around the house/at work. The human is about Henry's age (13) and while Henry's parents believe that the human is just "a machine" Henry knows that there is more to it than that. The reader pursues Henry as he faces the troubles that most young boys face- being teased at school, struggling with schoolwork, being unable to relate to parents, and meeting new friends.

This story is incredibly fascinating, even to someone who isn't a young reader. The author takes the world we know, humans living their lives with robots as machines, and flips it upside down. In this story the robots are living their lives and the humans are the machines, manufactured in a factory to aid the robots with their daily lives. While that is interesting in itself, the author did such a fantastic job of creating the world in this story that this book is a gem to read. As I was reading I found myself thinking, "that is so clever" as I read a certain part of the story. When Henry is reading the owners manual for his human I found myself laughing out loud and realizing that the author truly put a lot of thought into this story.

The characters in this story are wonderful. While the majority of the characters are robots, they have human traits, making them easy to relate to and understand. I found Henry to be a lovable main character. He acted in a way that many 13 year old boys will be able to relate to and I found myself loving his emotions. It's easy to get caught up in his excitement when he finds out that his family is getting a human or when he finds out that his father met his idol! Henry's emotions and reactions felt real, making him a fantastic main character.

The writing in this story was strikingly enjoyable to read. The author places subtle humor throughout the entire story, in a way that even the adult reader will enjoy picking it out of the pages. The author also seems to have writing for a broad audience mastered. The young reader (ages 7-13, roughly) will enjoy reading this story, or having it read to them, yet this book is so masterful in its ideas and humor that the majority of adults would be able to enjoy and appreciate this book.

I'm extremely glad that I read this book; it was enjoyable and humorous in a way that I haven't encountered in a long time. I will definitely be recommending this book to any young (or young at heart) people that I know, especially if they have an interest in robots or humor. 5 stars from me.

I received this book for review purposes via NetGalley.
1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Incredible & Inconveniently Intelligent: L.A. Messina's Book Connects with Parents & Kids. 10 Feb 2013
By Kenny - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
In many ways, it's a simple morality tale: on a planet populated by robots, humans are the labor-pets of the family. They are slack-jawed, lazy-eyed, monotonous beings manufactured to carry out the bidding of the robot population.
Henry, a robot who is one week removed from his "thirteenth upgrade", is part of a family who has just been given a new-model human: the ETC-420-gx-2. Their job is to put this new model through its paces and ensure it functions as expected.
What follows is a tale of bonding and adventure between two young adults; one robot, one human.
A parent could easily lean on this book's imagination, metaphors, hysterical use of language, and voyage of discovery to learn much of themselves, as well as of their child.

Despite the young adult target, my little 8-year-old became instantly attracted to the two central characters.
It does not put extraordinary pressure on the main character to be a hero, in fact, this family's robot father is chosen to take care of this particular human because he has "...distinguished yourself with your overwhelming averageness."
No pressure.

The language in the book can be challenging. Young readers - as well as us older folks - have our brains tossed into to a bit of a wrestling match. But, like play-fighting with a sibling on a carpet, the tussle itself is part of the fun: "Jane pulled her car into the driveway behind her husband's Esperzo 2167 3/4 sedanmobile..."
The language also manages to describe certain human conditions in a way that perhaps our daily language should: "Fainting was a fail-safe built into the human's system to prevent cases of berserkoness..."

The storytelling also touches on themes common to any reader; but especially young ones: being picked last on the team, and isolation, and loneliness.

But the emotion is softened as we observe a human boy through the eyes of his robot companion, Henry. Henry doesn't watch his friend cry; but rather sees that: "Droplets of water fell from its light sensors."
Whether read allowed to your grade-school children, or alone as a young adult, discussing Henry and 'ETC's' missteps can be a gateway to a better understanding of young-adult life; as well as teach kids a thing or two about their parents' own moments of irrationality: "Problem: Your units eyes are dripping and it emits a high-frequency whining from its mouth. Likely cause: Your unit is depressed, an emotionality condition that can last anywhere from two minutes to twenty years."

Although touching on topics such as having a friend who is a bad influence, or that jolting moment when your son shows up with a tattoo, this really winds up into a classic hero tale.
The book's greatest lessons are woven into poignant and funny sentences which come up for air every couple of pages. How better to summarize humanity than:

Observe caution when handling. Humans may leak or explode if improperly handled. To prevent crying jags and fits of anger, treat with kindness."

What's left to say after that, except: "Good night; we'll read more tomorrow."
The robots in this story understand us better than we do ourselves. But, through reading it, we can catch up a little.
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