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Reviewed by Kimberlee J Benart for Readers' Favorite
Garbage Collectors: Stories for Young Engineers is an adventure story by Mike Grabois. Middle schooler Jack, whose father is an engineer, is a small-town boy who considers himself very normal. He just happens to excel at problem solving. He joins forces with his country cousins, Alex and Ria, in four chapters, and with his schoolmates, Mark and Victoria, in two chapters, to solve problems with which they are faced. Jack describes the logic and their efforts along the way, including designing and testing solutions with the help or advice at times of adult family members and teachers. Jack’s mom encourages him to think broadly about problems: “The challenges are all around you. Every time you prepare for class, you could investigate things that are beyond the textbook, or find a problem that is much harder than in your homework.”
As someone who chose engineering as a career while a middle schooler like Jack, I appreciate books that encourage problem-solving skills and promote engineering as a profession. Garbage Collectors does both (though I was also pleased to see the nod to teaching.) But, since the problem-solving process is universal in application, kids with little interest in technical areas can still find the stories engaging as Jack and his comrades wrestle with garbage, snow balls, tricycles, floods, and weightlessness. The stories are told through Jack’s eyes and intend to reflect the thoughts, interests, and language of middle schoolers. Grabois’ narrative gets a little heavy in places. That said, this is a very positive, entertaining, and educational read about some great kids and their engineering adventures.