I've read a lot of middle grade fantasy, especially on my walk through the shelves, but not as much science fiction. That made Margaret Chang's Celia's Robot especially pleasant. Celia is a disorganized fifth grader whose busy parents don't have time to walk her through her chores. Her computer scientist dad does have time to build her a robot for her birthday, a mobile, voice-enabled, motion-sensing interactive machine that keeps her on track and helps her clean her room, do her homework, practice her piano, and feel safe at home until her parents arrive.
The book treats the robot as of equal importance to her school, where she juggles best friends and tries to ignore the boy who used to be her friend but now just likes to tease her. She worries about her parents when they argue. She feels awkward sometimes because she's the only Asian child in her Connecticut classroom. And she ventures out into a snowstorm to rescue her dad's invention when his evil business rival tries to steal it.
I'll leave this for my seventh grader to try; it's a gentle book of a kid with a nifty treasure; I liked the way Celia's biracial heritage matters but isn't an "issue" and the way that her friendship with the neighbor boy gets messed up by school but then gets resolved without romance. I'd also give it to my fifth grader, but he's far too slow a reader and I've already given him three books to read this month. I'm glad I found another good read as I journey around the shelves of my library. I'm about to round the first corner of Children's Fiction. Well, if by "about" you mean "in two weeks."