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House of Robots
By Chris Grabenstein
Illustrated by Juliana Neufeld
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Table of Contents
A Sneak Peek of House of Robots: Robots Go Wild!
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Hi, I'm Sammy Hayes-Rodriguez. Maybe you've heard of me? I'm the kid everybody's making fun of because my mother made me bring a robot to school with me—the dumbest, most embarrassing thing to ever happen to any kid in the whole history of school. (I'm talking about going back to the Pilgrims and Mayflower Elementary.)
I need to tell you a wild and crazy story about this robot that—I kid you not—thinks it's my brother.
And guess where the dumb-bot got that goofy idea?
From my mother!
Oh, guess what? My father is in on this idiotic robot business, too. He even called Mom's lame-o idea "brilliant."
Good thing Maddie is still on my side.
Maddie's absolutely the best little sister anybody could ever have. Aren't her blue eyes incredible? Oh, right. Duh. That drawing is in black-and-white. Well, trust me—her eyes are bluer than that Blizzard Blue crayon in the jumbo sixty-four-color box.
Anyway, Maddie and I talked about Mom's latest screwy scheme over breakfast, which, of course, was served by one of Mom's many wacky inventions: the Breakfastinator.
Punch the button for Cap'n Crunch and cereal tumbles into a bowl, which slides down to the banana slicer, shuffles off to the milk squirter, scoots over to the sugar sprinkler, and zips down to the dispenser window.
Want some OJ with your cereal? Bop the orange button.
But—and this is super important—do NOT push the orange juice and Cap'n Crunch buttons at the same time. Trust me. It's even worse if you push Cap'n Crunch and scrambled eggs.
Maddie and I always have breakfast together before I head off to school. The two of us talk about everything, even though Maddie's two years younger than I am. That means she'd be in the third grade—if she went to school, which she doesn't.
I'll explain later. Promise.
Maddie knows how crazy Mom and Dad can be sometimes. But to be honest, even though she's younger, Maddie keeps things under control way better than I do.
"Everything will be okay, Sammy. Promise."
"But you totally agree that Mom's new idea is ridiculous, right? I could die of embarrassment!"
"I hope not," says Maddie. "I'd miss you. Big-time. And yeah, her plan is a little out there.…"
"Maddie, it's so far 'out there' it might as well be on Mars with that robot rover. They could dig up red rocks together!"
Okay, now here's the worst part: My mom told me that this wacko thing she wants me to do is all part of her "most important experiment ever."
Yep. I'm just Mom's poor little guinea pig. She probably put lettuce leaves in my lunch box.
Mom's "Take a Robot to School Day" idea is so super nutty, she couldn't even say it out loud in front of Genna Zagoren, a girl in my class who has a peanut allergy, which is why my best buddy, Trip, can never eat his lunch at Genna's table. More about Trip later, too. Promise.
Anyhow, it's time to begin Mom's big, super-important experiment: me and a walking, talking trash can going to school. Together.
"Just pretend he's your brother" is what my mom says.
"I don't have a brother."
"You do now."
Can you believe this? I can't.
As for the robot? I don't think he's really going to blend in with the other kids in my class except, maybe, on Halloween.
He's already wearing his costume.
"Good morning, Samuel," E says when we're out the front door and on our way up the block to the bus stop. "Lovely weather for matriculating."
"To matriculate. To enroll or be enrolled in an institution of learning, especially a college or university."
I duck my head and hope nobody can tell it's me walking beside Robo-nerd.
"We're not going to college," I mumble. "It's just school."
"Excellent. Fabulous. Peachy."
I guess Mom is still working on E's word search program. I can hear all sorts of things whirring as the big bulky thing kind of glides up the sidewalk. The robot chugs his arms back and forth like he's cross-country skiing up the concrete in super-slow motion. Without skis.
I notice that E is lugging an even bigger backpack than I am.
Maybe that's where he keeps his spare batteries.
According to my mother—whose name is Elizabeth—the robot's name, E, stands for Egghead, which is what a lot of people call my mom, Professor Elizabeth Hayes, PhD, because she's so super smart (except when she does super-dumb stuff like making me take a talking robot to school for anything besides show-and-tell).
My dad, Noah Rodriguez, says the name E stands for Einstein Jr. because the robot is such a genius. Ha! Would a genius go to school without wearing underpants? I don't think so.
My sister, Maddie, thinks E is a perfect name all by itself and stands for nothing except E.
I kind of like Maddie's idea. Even though Maddie doesn't go to school, she's so smart it's almost impossible to fight or argue with her about anything. Trust me. I've tried.
But the more time I spend with E, the more I think I know what his name really means: ERROR!
"Remember, Samuel," E says when we reach the bus stop, "always wait for the school bus on the sidewalk. Do not stand, run, or play in the street."
A lot of my friends from the neighborhood are already at the corner. Most of them are gawking at the clunky machine with the glowing blue eyeballs that's following behind me like an obedient Saint Bernard.
"What's with the bright blue eyeballs?" I mumble. "Are those like freeze-ray guns?"
"Let's form a straight line, children, away from the street," E chirps. And get this—E can smile. And blink. (But you can hear the mini-motors clicking and purring inside his head when he does.)
"I make these suggestions," E continues, "in an attempt to enhance your school-bus-boarding safety."
Everybody stops gawking at E and starts staring at me.
None of the kids are smiling. Or blinking.
E is definitely the biggest ERROR my mother has ever made—worse than the time she designed a litter-box-cleaning robot that flung clumps of kitty poop all over the house.
"What is that thing?" asks Jackson Rehder, one of the kids who ride the bus with me every morning.
"Another one of my mother's ridiculous robots," I say, giving E the stink eye.
"What's his name?"
"E. For Error. Just like in baseball."
"I'm sorry, Samuel," says E. "You are mistaken. You are imparting incorrect information. Your statement is fallacious."
Great. Now the stupid robot wants to argue with me? Unbelievable.
Stick around. This should be fun.
I am sorry, Samuel. Error is an absurd name for a technologically advanced machine that is able to sense, think, and act on its own."
"Then go be on your own and leave me and my friends alone!"
"I am sorry, Samuel. I have been programmed to attend school. It is my primary function."
"Well, go attend one where I'm not a student."
"I am sorry, Samuel—"
"Hey, Sammy," cracks Jackson, "maybe that's his name: Sorry! He sure says 'I'm sorry' a lot."
E rotates his head thirty degrees to the left, tilts down, and locks in on Jackson Rehder's eyes. "I am sorry, Jackson. My name is E. Your suggestion is totally illogical. For one thing, the word sorry does not begin with the letter e."
E swivels back to face me.
"I must go to school with you, Samuel. It is what Mother told me to do."
"Professor Elizabeth Hayes, PhD."
"I know Mom's name! And she's not your mother, she's mine!"
E actually grins. "Of course Elizabeth is my mother. Perhaps not in the limited way you look at the world, Samuel. But most certainly Professor Elizabeth Hayes, PhD, is my creator and, therefore, my mother."
"So the robot is your brother?" snaps Jackson. "He's your robo-bro? Your bro-bot?"
Everybody at the bus stop picks up on that: "Robobro! Ha! Bro-bot!"
What a great start for "Error" and me, huh? I'm beginning to think I might actually hate this thing.
Finally, the big yellow school bus comes rumbling down the street, and I happily realize that there's no way E will be coming to school with me today.
Robots can't climb steps, right? They roll around on tank treads or bounce off walls. Well, you have to scale three giant steps to board the school bus. Something E won't be able to do.
You're going down, Bot Boy!
Once we are safely on board the bus," E peeps as the driver swings open the folding doors to reveal the steep little staircase, "go directly to a seat and remain seated and facing forward for the entire ride."
"Riiiight," I say, hopping up the three steps lickety-split.
When I reach the little landing at the top, I spin around to wave buh-bye to E, who will be spending the rest of his day stranded on the sidewalk, totally ruining his shot at a perfect-attendance medal on his very first day of school.
"See ya…wouldn't want to be ya!"
Yes. I am gloating. Just a little.
But the robot has the last laugh. Well, he doesn't actually laugh, because I think Mom forgot to give the thing a sense of humor.
What E does do (I hate to admit) is pretty amazing.
He lifts one foot and places it on the first step and—CLICK, CLUNK, CLICK, CLUNK, CLICK—he climbs up those steps faster than I can.
"Why have you not taken your seat, Samuel?" E asks, because I'm standing there with my mouth hanging open, blocking the aisle.
"Yeah, little dude," says Mr. Hessler, the school bus driver. "Sit down."
The door closes. The air brakes make a gassy noise as if they've been eating bean burritos all morning.
Yep. I'm on my way to school.
And E is coming with me.
Did I mention that I might hate this thing?
Well, I decided that I do.
I really, really do.
I don't want to be obnoxious here or brag…but guess who was absolutely right about E going to school being a huge mistake? A colossal ERROR?
Yep. It was me. Sammy Hayes-Rodriguez.
Day one of Mom's experiment is a total bust, just as I predicted it would be.
My reward for being so smart?
A chance to take part in the first-ever parentstudent-teacher-robot conference in the principal's office.
Since our house in the Sunnymede section of South Bend, Indiana, is all of nine minutes away from Creekside Elementary (and because our hybrid is equipped with an enhanced GPS Mom designed that picks the quickest route by somehow communicating with all the stoplights along the way), both Mom and Dad were able to attend the cozy little conference.
I couldn't wait for Mrs. Reyes, our school principal, to expel E—forever.
It's not Mom's fault, really. Some experiments just don't work out. Like that mad scientist in the old movie who ended up as a human fly. Major fail.
"I am so, so sorry about the…incidents," my mom says to Mrs. Reyes, who's pretty cool most of the time, but if you ask me, she's way too lenient with my mother. Maybe that's because they play together in a terrible rock band. (More on that later.)
"I completely support Elizabeth," says my dad. "And Sammy. And Einstein Jr. And you, of course, Principal Reyes. In short, I support everyone and, uh, everything in this room."
"I made a minor miscalculation," my mom continues. "Or two. Maybe three. Might've been four."
Mrs. Reyes smiles. Nods thoughtfully. It's what principals do.
"These things happen, Elizabeth," she says. "Especially when you're trying to boldly go where no one has gone before in your quest for knowledge."
See what I mean? Way too lenient.
"But," says Mrs. Reyes, standing up and taking a deep breath, "we will get through this, just as we get through each and every exciting day here at Creekside."
While Mom and Dad and Mrs. Reyes are all saying good-bye and shaking hands, E and I have a "moment" together out in the hallway.
"I wish you could have been a bit more supportive of me on my first day of school," says E.
If I didn't know he was a robot, I'd swear he was kind of choking up.
"Frankly, Samuel, I felt a little lost. Discombobulated. Confused. Flummoxed. Who wouldn't? After all, it was my first day. And I am so different from all the other boys and girls."
Now I'm feeling pretty bummed, too.
Whoa. Wait a second.
Before everybody, including me, starts getting all weepy about E being suspended on his first day of school, let me tell you why Mom was apologizing for Error.
No. Hang on. Let me tell you why my mother should've been apologizing to me instead of the principal.
Let's do a quick recap of what happened before that little parent-student-teacher-robot conference.
Okay—the second we arrived at school, Error caused a near riot.
"Greetings and salutations to you all!"
(That's E. Not me.)
I'm just shaking my head, wishing I could disappear—but that's extremely hard to do when you're walking up the halls with a five-foot-tall, whirring, clicking, knobby-kneed plastic guy with bright blue LED eyeballs.
"Is that a robot in our school?" asks this one kid.
"No. It's a knight in shining armor," I snap back.
"Is that a robot?" asks a girl.
"No. It's an action figure from my life-sized Star Wars collection."
Before anybody else can ask the same stupid question, Cooper Elliot, probably my worst enemy in the known universe, breezes up the corridor and jumps in my face.
Yes. That's what Cooper Elliot calls me. Constantly.
"I see you brought a friend to school. Smart move. You needed one."
"He's not my friend," I say, moving as far away from E as I can, which isn't very far because Cooper kind of has me boxed in.
Now the big doofus gets right in my grill. "C-3PO here isn't your friend?"
"No. He's one of my mother's dumb experiments."
"Oh. So he's just like you? Because—face it, Sammy—you were your mother's dumbest experiment ever!"
"Excuse me," says E, lightly tapping Cooper Elliot on the shoulder with one of his clamps, which are supposed to be like hands. "Was that a joke? If so, I will proceed to chuckle amusedly."
"No," says Cooper, pulling back a little. "The only joke I see is you, you overgrown can of creamed corn. You and Dweebiac."
"Actually, my brother's name is Samuel, not Dweebiac."
For half a second, it feels pretty good to have RoboCop sticking up for me like that. I mean, his vise-grip clamper-claws are powered by high-pressure hydraulics. E could crush a coconut between his pincers. Or Cooper Elliot's nose.
"Your brother? Oh, man. That is priceless!" Cooper has to hold his sides, he's laughing so hard. "Dweebiac is your brother?"
"Affirmative. But as I stated previously, his proper name is Samuel."
"Hey, you guys, guess what?" Cooper booms to the whole hallway. "Dweebiac's brother is a robot! The two of them are BRO-BOTS!"
Remember that good feeling I mentioned? It's gone.
Especially after everybody else starts piling on, saying stuff about E. And me.
None of it is very nice.
Of course, those semi-predictable, early-morning insults were not what the first-ever parentteacher-student-robot conference was all about.
You got a minute for this? Good. I'll give you the blow-by-blow.
Okay. E and I finally made it to Mrs. Kunkel's classroom. She wanted to start the day going over spelling and grammar. E? He wanted to start by showing off.
"Shall I spell Kyrgyzstan?" he asks with his hand shot straight in the air.
"Um, it's not on our vocabulary list this week," says Mrs. Kunkel.
"How about cantaloupe? Dirigible? Enormous?"
"Like your eyeballs?" cracks Cooper Elliot.
Mrs. Kunkel gives Cooper a look. "Let's move on to grammar.…"
And again E pipes up. "Personal pronouns—such as I, we, they, he or she—take the place of specific nouns."
"That's right," says Mrs. Kunkel. "But in the future, E, please wait until I call on you."
"You is also a pronoun.
Praise for House of Robots:A #1 New York Times Bestseller
- "Underlying the novel's laughs are themes of friendship, compassion, and family, particularly in regard to Sammy's devotion to his younger sister...and his deepening relationship with his 'bro-bot.'"—Publishers Weekly
- "A good fit for reluctant readers."—CommonSenseMedia.org
- On Sale
- Nov 24, 2014
- Hachette Audio