It's the end of the 21st century where technocrats rule and robots take care of humans' every need. Your house watches you, knows your secrets, and talks to you. And your closest friend can bea machine? Gavin Bell and his teenage sister Fleur come from a middle-class family. Their much-loved, old-fashioned robot, Grumps, is running down and can't be repaired, so a scientist friend loans them EGR3, an experimental new robot to help Grumps. EGR3, known as Eager, learns from his experiences, as a child would. He feels emotionswonder, excitement, and loss. When the ultra high-tech, eerily human BDC4 robots begin to behave suspiciously, Eager and the Bells are drawn into a great adventure that is sometimes dark and often humorous. As Eager's extraordinary abilities are tested to the limit, he will try to find the answer to this question: What does it mean to be alive? From the Hardcover edition.
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To introduce the text, the author uses vivid details and descriptions. This imagery helps create a picture in the reader's mind.
Words such as "robots" and "hoverbus" help give an indication of the setting of the story. When do you think the story is taking place?
Notice the way the house is described. Does it sound like the homes we live in today?
Gavin claims that the house is "stubborn and sulky." Giving an object like a house human qualities is which of the following literary devices?
Did you know that you can look up any word in the text of the book or the text of the questions and answers? Just click (or press on mobile devices) the word you want to define and hold until the blue text selector pops up. When you release, a define option will appear. Since it's so easy to look up words, make sure you use this feature frequently. Do you know the meaning of the highlighted word? If not, look it up!
What is the problem that the family is having with Grumps?
The house does not seem to be fond of Grumps. Notice that it is encouraging the family to replace him.
Who seems to be the most determined to keep Grumps, despite his failures?
It may seem like there is no way that we would ever have robots like the Bell family has. Take a look at the video below, and think about the kinds of robots that already exist in our world. (This annotation contains a video)
Socrates was a Greek philosopher and thinker whose way of life, character, and thought had a major influence on the way people have thought throughout history. The "Socrates" that Gavin is speaking to is likely designed after him. (This annotation contains an image)
Gavin is wrestling with the idea of a robot having free will, or the ability to make decisions on its own. What does this suggest about Gavin?
Use the 'Define' feature to look up the highlighted word. Which of the following words is the best synonym for "faculties" as it is used in the text?
Based on the highlighted text, which of the following does not seem to be true about Marcia?
Although there is no definition for a "jinn," what can you infer about the meaning as it is used in the text?
When an author give clues or hints of something to come in a story, it is called foreshadowing. Below is a short video clip that reviews foreshadowing and shows an example as well. Do you see any foreshadowing in the highlighted text? (This annotation contains a video)
The retina is a part of the eye that receives and processes images. Based on that information, as well as context clues, what can you conclude about the meaning of the word retinogram?
Gavin seems to be impressed by material things. He enjoys the hoverbus, likes the movies and music, and he is amazed by the strength of the robots. Based on his father's response, do you think his father feels the same way?
Which of the following pieces of evidence does NOT support the conclusion that the Bell family treats each other with respect?
Propaganda is information, ideas, or rumors spread widely to help or harm a person, group, nation, etc. Throughout history, propaganda has been used, especially during times of war. The image below shows a famous propaganda poster from World War II. What message is it trying to convey? (This annotation contains an image)
The author uses the simile, "...as if he was the final cherry on a cake." What is the purpose of using this simile to describe Dora's actions?
There are pieces of evidence in the text that allow the reader to infer that Marcia's family is important. What pieces of textual evidence do you notice?
An idiom is a phrase that whose literal meaning is different than its intended meaning. What is the intended meaning of the highlighted idiom?
Marcia doesn't exactly sound like a best friend. Think about how she speaks to and treats Fleur.
Please reread the highlighted text. Why might the author have included these lines in the text?
Mr. Bell seems to be quite skeptical of the robot that Professor Ogden is offering. Why do you think he is so unsure?
Which of the following best summarizes Mr. Bell's visit with Professor Ogden?
Think about why the author used the word "surprisingly" here. Would you expect the voice of a robot to be warm and expressive?
Which of the following character traits does NOT describe Professor Ogden?
Below is a short video about finding themes in literature. As you continue reading, start looking for clues to the themes presented in this novel. (This annotation contains a video)
Which of the following statements from the text is based on an opinion or judgement instead of fact?
Why would Fleur want to "see the ugly bits" or smell horrid things? How is she feeling about her life compared to Marcia's? Consider these questions as you read.
Fleur has learned something very important about the society she lives in. Using details from the text, write a brief summary of what Fleur has learned, and tell whether you agree or disagree with the choices the society has made and why.
After the conversation that Fleur has just had with her mother, imagine her unhappiness when she sees the new robot. She was already upset about her life compared to Marcia's. This will most likely not help her feelings.
What inference can you make about Fleur based on her conversations with Marcia and with her mother, and based on her thoughts and reactions toward Eager?
Even though Eager is a robot, he is able to think about things like lying. He realizes that he has no desire to lie. Do you think that will change as the story goes on?
Using evidence from the text, compare and contrast Grumps and Eager. How are they the same, and how are they different from one another?
When the house refers to itself as "the person to ask," it is an example of verbal irony.
Why does Fleur want Grumps and Eager to leave at this point?
Eager is extremely upset by seeing this "dead" robot. Why do you think it bothers him so much?
Use the Define feature to look up the definition of trying. Which of the following is the best synonym for the word trying as it is used in the text?
Eager seems to know a great deal about taking care of a child. Do you think he knows everything that he needs to know? What could go wrong?
The highlighted text contains great description and detail. This text is an example of which of the following?
What does the author achieve by including the following lines in the text?"Before Eager could reply, Grumps unleashed a torrent of words. 'Never...ever...in all my career...to harm a baby...We are programmed to care for humans...It is contrary to our behavior..."
The author has given several clues that Eager is feeling badly about what happened. For example, Eager uses the word "terrible" more than once, and he "confessed in a low voice." Is it odd that a robot can feel remorse?
A rhetorical question is one that doesn't really require an answer.
Fleur does seem to be jealous of Marcia and her new robot. Which of the following lines from the text does NOT support the inference that Fleur is jealous?
The BDC4s have been designed to seem almost human. Boadicea is carrying on a conversation with Marcia and Fleur.
Bombay is located in India. It is also known as Mumbai. (This annotation contains an image)
Which of the following best describes Fleur after she talked to Sarupa?
Grumps states that, "Everything's changed. It always does." What might Grumps be talking about besides the way that Fleur has changed? What else is always changing? Use examples from the text to support your answer.
Is it possible for a robot to have actual feelings? Would it still be a robot then?
Reread the highlighted section. From this section as well as the rest of the text so far, what can you infer about Fleur?
Do you think Gavin is right? Was Boadicea about to attack Marcia?
The pot is described in such great detail that the reader can picture what it looks like. The author has used imagery here.
Use the Define feature to look up the word "sycophantic." Which of the following sentences uses the a form of the word correctly?
Why would the people living here need such protection? What can you infer about them?
Gavin is becoming suspicious of the robots. First, he fears that Boadicea is going to attack Marcia, and now, the gates have been turned off. Do you predict that there will be trouble, or is Gavin overreacting? Use evidence from the text to support your answer.
Marcia seems concerned that the fence is turned off and that there are no guards.
Think about Marcia's attitude toward the robots compared to Gavin's. Give at least two similarities and two differences about how the two of them feel. Use specific examples to support your answer.
Imagine a world where things like pineapple are only for the rich. We take many things like these for granted.
In the highlighted section, why does the author describe the robots this way?
This statement seems to show that the attackers were trying to rob Gavin, but are not impressed with what he has with him.
What does the author achieve by including the highlighted dialogue?
Notice the boy's grammar. Does anyone else in the book talk this way?
Briefly summarize what Errol and Srin (and the others) are fighting for. What are they upset about?
It seems like Errol and Srin have let Gavin have his punches at them so that they were "even." Maybe this was their way of showing him respect or of telling him that they were sorry.
Shepherd's pie is a dish made up of meat (lamb or hamburger) mixed with vegetables, and topped with a layer of mashed potatoes on top. (This annotation contains an image)
Gavin is beginning to wonder if it is fair to make the robots do everything for the humans if they have free will and can make decisions for themselves. What can you infer about Gavin?
What is most likely reason that the author includes this incident in the novel?
Marcia's problem is not that different from problems that we have in our society.
Perhaps Gavin is right to be suspicious of the BDC4s.
Which literary device has the author used in the highlighted section?
How could a robot have goals?
Which of the following lines from the text contains a simile?
Why did the author most likely use the simile "...like an enormous jewel..." to describe the pineapple?
After reading the rest of the paragraph, it seems that, by using the phrase "unruffled opulence," the author is describing how fancy and elegant the hotel is.
Below is a short video reviewing similes and metaphors. Notice that instead of saying that the dining room was "nice," the author used a metaphor, stating that the dining room "was an oasis of calm and luxury." (This annotation contains a video)
Idioms are phrases that do not make sense if taken word for word, but we understand their meaning. Think about what the man meant when he said, "At last, an extra pair of hands." (This annotation contains an image)
This is German for "God in Heaven!"
Which of the following adjectives best describes Eager's adventure in the kitchen?
This means "no" in German.
Which is the best reason for why Eager's time in the kitchen went so badly?
The man seems to be talking to Eager as though he is talking to another human, and he seems to feel the same way about "Douglas."
What have the BDC4s gone to do in the other room?
Which of the robots seems to be in charge of the others? Give at least three pieces of evidence from the text to support your answer.
Is the problem with one of the BDC4s?
What is meant by the highlighted idiom?
Gavin continues to be distrustful of the both the BDC4s and Mr. Lobsang.
Which of the following lines from the text shows a change in Fleur?
Mr. Bell does not seem to be concerned about the robots. He knows that Marcia is dramatic, and feels she is overreacting. He has ultimate faith in LifeCorp.
Which of the following lines from the text is an example of personification?
Saying that someone has a bee in his/her bonnet is an idiom that means that he or she has an obsession with an idea, or that one can't get over thinking about something. (This annotation contains an image)
After looking up the word bear, determine which of the following is the best synonym of the word as it is used in the text.
Why is it such a production for the family to go on a short car trip?
The song they are singing is an allusion to a song from "The Sound of Music." Below is a short clip from the musical. (This annotation contains a video)
This is French for "a pleasant quality that is hard to define."
Use the Define feature to look up the words relic and vintage. Although they both mean that it something old, what is the difference between the two?
Which of the following themes is best supported by the highlighted text?
The ride home is very different from their previous ride. Compare the two car rides using details from the text.
Even though Grumps was a robot, he was like part of the family. Although it isn't logical to be upset over the loss of a robot, the family is very upset because they were very fond of him.
Gavin is determined that it is LifeCorp that caused the accident. What does he fear they want?
Fate versus free will is another one of the themes developed in this novel. Do the robots like Eager and the BDC4s have free will to do what they wish, or are they destined to only work for humans and follow their orders?
Perhaps the walls of the house trapping Fleur foreshadowed this event.
What does Mrs. Bell's statement that she doesn't "know what to think anymore, where robots are concerned" mean?
Marcia seems to be unaware of how those who aren't technocrats live.
The man's reaction in the highlighted paragraph tells you that _____________.
How does Marcia seem to know how to utilize all of the technology in the building while the Bell children do not?
As readers, we know that Eager has gone because he doesn't want harm to come to the Bell family. They believe, however, that he has deserted them. Since the reader knows something that the characters do not, this is an example of dramatic irony.
What can you infer based on the highlighted section?
Eager is offended by this remark.
How is this visit to Professor Ogden's house different from the last time Eager was there? Use specific details from the text to support your answer.
Which of the followings lines from the text does not contain an idiom?
What could be the reason that Professor Ogden is at LifeCorp headquarters? Did he go there by choice, or did someone force him to go there?
What does the misunderstanding tell you about Marcia?
Imagine Eager's surprise when he realizes that Professor Ogden is the head of robotics at LifeCorp!
Below is a brief video that retells the myth of Icarus. Watch carefully and consider the myth's connection to this story. (This annotation contains a video)
How does the myth of Daedalus and Icarus relate to the scientists at LifeCorp?
Verbal irony is when a character says one thing, but means something else, often the opposite of what they say.
Which of the following lines from the text is an example of verbal irony?
Why can't LifeCorp simply turn off all frequencies of radio waves, causing all robots to stop?
This is an allusion to the text by Mary Shelley. (This annotation contains an image)
LifeCorp was making decisions that Professor Ogden disagreed with, so he chose to leave the company. Which of the following character traits would not be used to describe the professor?
What do you think caused the interviewer to stop asking questions? Notice that he looked down at his lexiscreen. Who could have asked him to stop?
Do you remember "Captain Bradoc" from earlier in the text? He was the robot in the bathrobe.
Has Marcia changed since the beginning of the novel? Please defend your answer with evidence from the text.
Using what you now know about how the BDC4s were created, why did "Sea Captain Bradoc" state that he had nothing in common with "robots" like Eager?
The humans are not worried as much about the possible loss of the robots, but they fear what might happen to Mr. Lobsang.
Below is an image of a ship during a gale, similar to what "Sea Captain Bradoc" describes. (This annotation contains an image)
Which of the following lines from the text is an example of personification? (Note: since the robots are behaving as human throughout the story, look for an example of something other than a robot being personified).
After all of that, will Eager "die" by falling from the cliff?
What does he highlighted text tell you about the Bell family?
Eager seems to be the same as he was before the fall.
What does the author seem to be saying about technology?