The story is set in the former Soviet Union and is about a boy-robot who resembles a seventh grader. The robot and the boy happen to meet (when the robot runs away from the portmanteau that carried him) and become good friends. The robot starts going to school instead of the boy, Sergei Cheesekov. What follows is an instant catapult to stardom for the average schoolboy, who finds it difficult to grapple with the reality. Once the secret is revealed, the robot becomes a science advisor to the students, and remains Sergei’s best friend, who grows up to become a computer programmer (what he wanted).
That’s the summary..I first read the book as a sixth grader myself, and learnt a lot of stuff about math and science from the book. I remember them solving simultaneous equations, which I learnt to solve a year before they were part of the school curriculum (the Russians learnt them in seventh grade just as we did). I loved the book because it seemed that the children in this book were similar to us in India. Instead of talking about sports, dating and proms (unlike the American books I read about teenagers), the children here were worried about learning math and science and eventually finding careers in these fields, quite similar to the kind of pressure we felt growing up in the early 90s. The robot who was quite socially challenged, was still a star because he could solve math problems in seconds!
One of the most endearing episodes in this book was that of Sergei dreaming about the Pythagoras theorem (which applies to a right-angled triangle) and imagining himself in a land of two-dimensional people, who chase him away because he is three-dimensional. I loved this part to such an extent that in school essays asking us to describe a dream, I would recreate this scenario for several years!
I have read books that have left strong impressions on me over the years (Wuthering Heights, Anna Karenina, The Namesake, One Hundred Years of Solitude, to name a few), but no other book has stayed as fresh in my memory as this one. The book is available on Amazon.com but does not have any reviews. Nevertheless, I would recommend this book to anyone between the ages of 11 and 18, and even older, even if the mention of Soviet Union evokes strong feelings.
I end my post with this poetic quote:
The love of learning, the sequestered nooks,
And all the sweet serenity of books.
~Henry Wadsworth Longfellow