In Review: Tin

This is one of the best children's books I've read.

Tin by Pádraig Kenny

Published by Chicken House, a division of Scholastic, on March 26, 2019. Hardcover of 288 pages at $16.99, e-book at $10.99, and audiobook at $24.99. Intended for ages 8 – 12, grades 3 – 7.

Note: I read an advanced copy so anything may have changed by publication.

The cover: This is a wonderful cover by Katie Hickey. The four leads, Jack, Round Rob, Estelle, and Christopher are standing before Ironhaven, the land where all broken mechanicals have been deposited so that they can be repaired. The characters look great even though their backsides are only shown, reminding me of the classic four characters looking upon Oz or the Wizard himself. The city looks terrific and the colors are fantastic. This is the perfect cover for this book with the jacket design by Maeve Norton. Overall grade: A+ 

The premise: From the back cover, “Orphan Christopher works for Mr. Absalom, an engineer of mechanical children. He’s happy being the only “real” boy among his scrap-metal friends made from bits and bobs — until an accident reveals an awful truth. When the friends are torn apart and Christopher is taken away, it’s up to the rest of the crew to find him. What follows is a remarkable adventure as they set out to discover who and what they really are. Tin is a remarkable journey of friendship and empathy, a quest to discover the truth.” Friends trying to help one of their own who’s been taken from them? Sounds interesting. And they’re robots? Okay, that increased my interest substantially. Overall grade: A

The characters: Christopher could be called the book’s protagonist as he’s the reason there’s a story. He is a normal tween with a big heart who always tries to do what’s right, even if it angers Mr. Absalom’s ability to earn money. Early in the book it’s revealed that Christopher is not only a robot, but a very special robot that attracts the attention of some powerful people for a nefarious purpose. By the end of the book this character had me in tears. He was only one of the heroes that had me sniffling with sadness and joy. Appearing only in the opening chapters, Gregory Absalom is a engineer of dubious skill who’s hustling as hard as he can to make money. Unfortunately his association with Christopher gets him into trouble. Jack is a tall, ginger haired robot whose optimism is infectious. He’s full of energy on the page and is trying to do all that he can to keep the group together in their trek to save Christopher. Gripper is a massive robot that’s incredibly strong. He’s not the smartest of the group, but he’s a friend that any reader would want. I loved him. Round Rob is also not the smartest, but he does some very clever things. I loved his simplicity, his design, the humor he brings to any situation, and what he does at the book’s climax. Estelle is the smartest of the heroes. She’s often irritated with their words and actions, but she, too, is motivated to help Christopher. Richard Blake is the book’s villain. He’s responsible for Christopher’s kidnapping and wants the clueless robot for a terrible purpose. Every scene with him is frightening, not because of violence inflicted, but the truth that is obviously hidden behind everything he says. When his justifications are revealed they are frightening. Philip Cormier is the last major player in the book. He’s disappeared for years. No one knows if he’s still alive. He is the key to helping the friends move forward and he has a secret about poor Christopher. All of these characters were absolutely engaging. I was moved by all of them at different times. Overall grade: A+

The settings: Mr. Absalom’s shop and property is a sensational hodgepodge of parts scattered everywhere that may or may not lead to money. It’s a great environment. The two locations where Christopher spends the majority of the novel are very creepy. One is very clean to accommodate him and another individual, while the other is a cell that would give any reader dread. The four friends journey to Ironhaven which contains every form of broken robot surrounded by metal buildings of all shapes and sizes. It was a place I would have loved to explore more, but author Kenny has to go to someone’s house which is much cleaner and vast than the dwellings that surround it. Every setting was extremely well described and magical. Overall grade: A+ 

The action: I loved every bit of tension in the book: Christopher’s revelation and those who acted upon it, the foursome’s journey to Ironhaven and what they find, their journey that takes them closer to their friend, and the battle outside Kenny’s quarters. Even better, none of the action is forced or arbitrary; everything occurs for a reason. Overall grade: A+

The conclusion: Exciting, thrilling, sad, moving, and epic. This is the perfect conclusion to a book. Overall grade: A+

The final line: This is one of the best children’s books I’ve read. The characters are instantly engaging, with the reader rooting for each of them. I wanted — needed — the heroes to succeed in finding their friend and thwarting Kenny’s plans. I teared up several times reading this book with fear and joy. This book will entertain and inspire all who read it. I can’t give enough praise to what Pádraig Kenny has created. Bravo, sir! Overall grade: A+

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Patrick Hayes was a contributor to the Comic Buyer's Guide for several years with "It's Bound to Happen!" and he's reviewed comics for TrekWeb and TrekCore. He's taught 8th graders English for 20 years and has taught high school English for five years and counting. He reads everything as often as he can, when not grading papers or looking up Star Trek, Star Wars, or Indiana Jones items online.
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