Cover Image: The School for Whatnots

The School for Whatnots

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Member Reviews

What an interesting piece of science fiction! It explores themes like the wealth gap in such an unexpected fashion, and I really like that. The later half of the story felt a little like something cobbled together from a lot of other well-known stories, but it didn't end the same way as any of those other stories, so it was okay to be reminded of other books. This would be an interesting read to share with an intermediate grade class as I'm sure it would drive some interesting conversation. Nicely done. Certainly a worthwhile addition to my library collection when it becomes available.
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I see The School for Whatnots as an introductory book into the science fiction genre for ages 12 and under. The storyline is simple enough and enjoyable enough for new science fiction readers to follow, and there aren’t any overwhelmingly intense scenes. The book may also get young readers thinking about possible future technological developments. However, those who are already familiar with the genre will struggle with all the scientific inaccuracies. Also, experienced readers may  find the lack of exploration and resolution between the “haves” and “have nots” to be quite disappointing.
Thank you NetGalley for a digital copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.
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The premise of this book sounding very intriquing and I quite enjoyed the book. The School for What Nots is a futuristic book that centers around Max and others in trying to uncover the mysterious note found that was in Josie's handwriting (someone who had disappeared). The school is one that protects against bullying and other behaviors that can get in the way of a child's school career. The students are expected to behave in a certain way and essentially be perfect. A very interesting read. Thank you to NetGalley and the Publisher for an ARC.
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The School For WhatNots was a fun , futuristic, high tech and unimaginable stories made for middle school kids with serious life topics like social classes, economic status, friendships, betrayals and loyalty. 
Josie’s mother died during childbirth and her laborer father wants the best for her. So, he signed an agreement to subject his daughter to play the role of an Android student/friend for the billionaire kid named Max in exchange of the good education and chance for a brighter future. Max’s parents wanted their child to learn more than just being the rich kid, so they seek the service of the WhatNot company that provides android kids that will play the role of a real life friends/schoolmates  of any rich kid family up to a certain age.
The secret was out when Josie left a note for Max to find saying that regardless of what he’s been told to always remember she is real. 
It was such thought provoking scenes about socio-economic status of the characters and their chance for education. A child has the right to education. This book may seem impossible specially with the Android  character but sad to admit that there are actually places in the world that even in current date and time that socio-economic status still prevent a child from getting education. I love the moral lesson that this story brings. Real friendships can not be bought and when people unites for a common cause, all things are easier to achieve. School for WhatNots is aimed for middle school audience but I believe that readers of all ages will enjoy.
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4.5 starts - I love Margaret Peterson Haddix! I've liked everything I've read of hers, so when I found this advanced readers' book available in audiobook, I had to try it! And was this a clever story! It is children's fiction, with the main characters 11 years old, but I was impressed with the surprisingly mature themes. While the setting included unusual futuristic sci-fi technology, it was very cleverly done. There were lots of unexpected twists, and an ending that surprised me, but I was impressed with how tidily and yet (nearly) realistic way things were concluded. Just when I thought it was starting to be unbelievable, things turned around and became realistic again. HOW did she do that??! Nicely done. We'll have to get a copy for our elementary school's library collection of Haddix books!

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Another amazing book from Margaret Peterson Haddix! This book was captivating from the beginning. It told a story that would engage young readers while also teaching valuable lessons about humanity, friendship, and individuality in an interesting format. I highly recommend this book.
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Margaret Peterson Haddix is known for her fast-paced, slightly sci-fi dystopian novels targeted at middle grade readers. This is another good addition to her collection that analyzes the themes of socioeconomic differences and friendship with a unique twist. 

Max is from an affluent family - nanny, drive, and mansion all included. As fifth grade is coming to a close, he prepares to say goodbye to his school friends and face a full summer of European family vacation and summer camping. However, he is distraught upon finding out that his best friend Josie has suddenly gone missing and stopped responding to all messages. The rest of the book twists and turns with reveals and explanations that lay out how everything that Max believes may be wrong. 

This book was exciting and fast paced, but I never felt fully invested and there never seemed to be any high stakes to overcome. I do think there were some deep and thematic discussions, but I'm not sure if they are fully relatable to all middle grade readers. I think this book will connect with the right readers and would make for an interesting discussion-based novel study.
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The School for Whatnots is a middle grade adventure fantasy by Margaret Peterson Haddix. Released 1st March 2022 by Harper Collins, it's 304 pages and is available in hardcover, audio, and ebook formats. 

This is a fantasy with thriller elements for ages ca. 8-12 years. The characters are easy to empathize with and likeable. Max is a poor-little-rich-boy and reminds me a lot of the Richie Rich comics from my own childhood. Josie is a poor kid trying to pretend she's an android in order to get a good education. Add a shadowy (benevolent?) corporation providing rich parents with the option to raise their offspring in a safe bubble surrounded by androids (Whatnots), a real human kid secretly introduced into the android school classroom peers who becomes fast friends with the protagonist Max, and secret adventures - kids vs. adults, and stir well. 

Although the plot explores some interesting and worthy themes: friendship, honesty, safety, wealth inequality, what it means to be human, alongside the adventure aspects of the plot, it had a somewhat unfinished "window dressing" feel. Most of the characters, aside from Max and Josie, were cardboard cutouts and felt like they were plot devices instead of real characters. 

The author's writing and the narrative itself are quite good. I can only assume the off-kilter stage dressing feel of much of it was entirely intentional and I'm still not sure why. 

I'm outside the target audience by 40 years, however I think 10 year old me would've enjoyed it very much, despite the oddness. The mystery and plot twists were well written and resolved, although again, sort of surreal and it's unclear what the author was going for in terms of message and meaning. 

The unabridged audiobook format has a run time of 6 hours and 12 minutes and is expertly narrated by Lillie Ricciardi. Sound and production quality are high throughout the read.

Four stars. It would make a good selection for public or school library acquisition or for young readers who enjoy adventure/fantasy realism/mystery. 

Disclosure: I received an ARC at no cost from the author/publisher for review purposes.
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This book was a lot of fun to read. The narrative style and tone were engaging. The narrator asides kept things going well. The narrator is only semi-reliable—and we find out why about two-thirds of the way through. 

Although the blurb says the book is about Max, I find that Josie may be an even more important character. 

While Max doesn’t know that the children he goes to school with are androids, called “Whatnots”, and the revelation is a painful one, there are even more deceptions in play. Josie, his best friend since the first day of kindergarten, is not a Whatnot. Rather, she was born in poverty and her father arranged for her to pretend to be a Whatnot in order to receive an education that he couldn’t afford. For six years, they only get to spend three weeks a year together during the summer. Josie lives “alone”, although someone appears to be looking after her to a degree.

But there are still more revelations, which I won’t go into here. Haddix provides us with one surprise after another, and they are interconnected.

There has been some comparison to Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, a story which the children themselves mention. And yes, it’s definitely there. But the outcome differs.

This is a story about wealth and privilege, poverty, kindness, bullying, and ultimately, what friendship truly means.

Possible Objectionable Material:
Some scenes near the end could be frightening. Max, a 5th grader, sneaks out of his house alone. Josie lives all alone under the school. Parents and others lie to children. Bullies.

Who Might Like This Book:
This is perfect for the intended age group. Anyone who likes whimsy, mystery, and books about friends. And yes, those who like Roald Dahl’s books.

Thank you to the publisher and NetGalley for providing both an ARC and an audio ARC of the book. I far prefer reading to listening, so was grateful to add the book version after receiving the audio version!

This book also reviewed at
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A big thank you to Harper Audio, Katherine Tegen Books, and NetGalley for an advanced listening copy of this book,

Max and Josie have been best friends since kindergarten. They are the only human children in their class. All of the other students are androids. In fact, Josie is pretending to be an android, too. It's an act she must keep up in order to stay at this school which is of a much higher caliber than the one she would otherwise be going to, You see, Max was born into a wealthy family while Josie was not. It turns out that Max and Josie's world is full of secrets that they both uncover throughout the course of this thought-provoking book. Haddix does a wonderful job of tackling several types of privilege in this wonderful middle-grade story.
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In The School for Whatnots by Margaret Peterson Haddix we take a look, through a middle grade lens, at the power of money.  We meet Max on the day of his birth with fireworks exploding as he is introduced to the masses.  His parents, you see, are wealthy, powerful people.  Meanwhile Josie is born on the same night and loses her mother in childbirth because they were unable to get help in time.

Max and Josie's parents both want the best for their children but given their socioeconomic standings this means two very different things.  For Max it means his parents will be sending him to a school full of "whatnots".  Whatnots are AI children who are programmed to meet whatever environment the parent would like their child to be provided during their early life and education.  Josie's dad securing the best for his daughter means getting her a spot pretending to be a whatnot.  For Josie this means always being on her best behavior at school and sleeping at school in one of the "charging pods" for the whatnots.  For them it means sacrificing their time together to give Josie a better chance at getting into a good middle school.

As 5th grade draws to a close Max's parents have a few choices, do they extend the whatnots for a year, intersperse some whatnots into his school or put him in a school of "normal" children.  Josie is sad to see her friend go and makes a big risk to try to reach out to him so when he finds out about whatnots he knows that at least on friend was a real.  This note sets into motion a chain of events.

I enjoyed the fun "narrator asides" throughout the book and especially after learning the identity of the narrator.  The book managed to take social commentary and observations and put them into an interesting and age appropriate format for young readers.
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The concept for The School for Whatnots was on point! One rich kid’s family pays to have their child surrounded by android children, so their personality doesn’t alter because of another “human” child, except for one little girl is pretending to be a “whatnot” so that she gets a better education. That is something I haven’t read before and it had me hooked.

Now where it went downhill is about halfway through. Max feels lonely without his best friend, Josie. Max is the rich kid, whose parents are now telling him that his best friend wasn’t real. Which, what a way to find out, but also, they are children. Josie started with Max in elementary school. Are you telling me that no one picked up on this little girl being very unrobotic in 6 years? They kept saying that she was a bad influence. Isn’t the whole reason to have the android kids so that his personality comes out without influence?

Then we find out that there are no whatnots at that school at all! They’re all elementary age kids pretending to be robots. So no child has an accident and pees on themselves? No child gets tired of pretending? That was unbelievable for me, but besides THAT, I loved the story. 

OH!!!! And then the moral of the story is that the principle only really wanted a friend. So what I got from this is that you can trust no one to be who they say they are😂
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Josie and Max have been best friends for as long as Max can remember, but the two come from different classes. Max is a millionaire with parents who are determined to protect him from the potential of people who will use him for his wealth. To do this, the family hires Whatnots, which are androids whose purpose is to fulfill the everyday tasks of life with ease and a mundane manner. Max is led to believe that his best friend, Josie, is a Whatnot, but when Josie is sent to the School for Whatnots she discovers that there is a more sinister purpose behind the Whatnot corporation.

This book is a really interesting look at individuality and classism in a dystopian setting. The "Narrator's Asides" are clever and humorous and even out the overall one of the story very well. Young readers will be able to appreciate Max's refusal to accept that his best friend has disappeared from his life, and Josie is a strong character with the determination that she isn't actually a robot. In doing so she and Max become the heroes of the story and show that friendship is possible regardless of class.
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This is a superbly written mid-grade fiction. I want to say this book could be dystopian fiction, but that would imply a hint of improbability. This book could very well be a premonition of Simpson-esqe quality. There are more surprising and breathtaking twists than riding a rollercoaster blindfolded. 

I would feel comfortable recommending this book to any child. It is perfectly G-rated. There isn’t even a smidge a bit of eye-brow raising language. You won’t feel terrible when you catch your kiddo up past their bedtime reading it. It would be a great book group study. I’d love to see it in graphic novel form and would pay to see this adapted to screen in some way.

This is definitely a read again book. Your 1st read through will be fast and skip details because you will not be able to wait to find out what happens next. The 2nd read through is where you’ll catch the details. The 3rd read through will be when you decide you may just put this story in your “always recommend” list.
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I was allowed to listen to this audiobook in exchange for an honest review. 

The School for Whatnots seems like homeschooling for rich parents who don't want to homeschool.  

Max's parents love him so much they are willing to pay anything for a good why not an education with robots?  No children to be mean to Max.  No smarter than Max children.  No sickness in the building. 

But without enough robots to fill the classroom, the company employed by the parents adds a few real children to the mix.  Good idea?   Maybe. Maybe not. 

But, children are intuitive...and when they don't know, they know. This book is written by Margaret Peterson Haddix, mystery writer extraordinaire.  She didn't take the book where the world would have taken it, but she made it better. 

The computer generated voice was appropriate in this case, I thought.
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Another fantastic middle grade thriller from Margaret Peterson Haddix! Taking place sometime in the future, when wealthy parents can choose to protect their children from either being bullied or becoming bullies by enrolling them in schools where the rest of the class is made up of "whatnots," childlike androids who learn and grow along with the human child. But what if one of the whatnots is actually human, whose parents make a huge sacrifice in the hope of providing their child with a better life? What happens to that child when the official real child ages out of the whatnot program? Especially if they have become friends? So many great twists and reveals that I can't possibly tell you anymore about it! Highly recommended for grades 4 & up.
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I have mixed feelings on this one. To begin, it is an interesting concept to have children unknowingly becoming friends with robots, and I think many middle grade kids will be drawn into the story. I am not sure about the idea that the characters are grouped by their social class. As a teacher and a parent, I have concerns that I don't like the direction the story took but I am not sure how students will see it. And the question that comes to mind is whether I dislike it because there is some truth to it? I would be interested to hear from some student readers on their thoughts.
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I enjoyed this middle school sci-fi story about friendship and knowing one’s worth. I like the ideas presented about a school of well-behaved robot children as role models and friends for the wealthy children to learn from. It’s a bit dystopian. The ending was wrapped up a bit too nicely for the seriousness of the situation, but I did enjoy the story and think middle schoolers would also.
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What's what and What's not.
Numerous books by Haddix feature children attempting to survive in anomalous societies. They include Among the Hidden (a third child forbidden by the Population Police) and Running Out of Time (a girl from the future who must save her 1800's community from a deadly disease). The author’s latest story presents an ingenious concept: coexistence of humans and androids.
Young Max leads a protected life. To craft the perfect childhood, his wealthy parents enroll him in a school where his classmates are remarkably realistic androids, programmed to act like "normal" children. Max doesn't know this school is a carefully constructed environment.
Max and Josie are classmates and best friends. One day Josie leaves Max a startling note, "No matter what anyone tells you, I'm real."
Readers learn that young Josie was recruited to pretend to be an android at Max's school. But that's only the first of many plot twists. Things get "curiouser and curiouser." Josie looks for answers to her questions: who is behind the Whatnot Corporation and why were the two friends placed in this bizarre school?
The omniscient narrator occasionally breaks the fourth wall and speaks directly to the audience, eventually disclosing the identity of several mysterious individuals. Shocking plot revelations scattered throughout the text will keep middle grade readers swiftly turning pages.
It's a story of friendship, a biting commentary of class divisions, an examination of technology's side effects, and a relentless search for truth. The School for Whatnots is entertaining reading that can invite serious discussions about what it means to be human. Don't miss this one. Haddix is at the top of her game.
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Josie is raised from almost birth to be a whatnot, a child who acts a certain way (like a robot) and when old enough goes to school with a rich kid, until middle school.  The rich kids parents purposefully do this to save their children from being taken advantage of, Josie's dad did this so maybe she would get to go to nicer schools and get out of the poor neighborhood they live in.  But Josie and her rich kid Max turn out to be more than friends they are best friends that aren't ready to lose each other yet, and that is where this story gets very interesting.

This is one of those stories that is fun to read and makes you think if this could really happen, but at the same time makes you a bit sick to feel any child feels this way.  It is a great story of true friendship and even though that is not the full take away from the book I hope it is the main take away.  This book would be great for all readers as it has something for everyone.

This will appear on my blog on 3-1-2022
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