Fox, Helen 1962–
Fox, Helen 1962–
Born 1962; married. Education: Oxford University, graduate.
Writer. Worked variously as a primary school teacher, marketing executive, tour guide, and actor.
Eager (middle-grade novel), Hodder Children's (London, England), 2003, Wendy Lamb Books (New York, NY), 2004.
Eager's Nephew (middle-grade novel), Hodder Children's (London, England), 2004, Wendy Lamb Books (New York, NY), 2006.
Eager and the Mermaid (middle-grade novel), Hodder Children's (London, England), 2007.
Helen Fox's first book for young teens, Eager, takes place in late-twenty-first-century England. Gavin Bell's parents are middle-class professionals who have a family robot, but Grumps is an older model and is beginning to have problems. Unfortunately, the Bell family is not able to afford the latest BDC4 model, which is produced by LifeCorp, the conglomerate controlling most technology. When a friend and former LifeCorp scientist asks if the Bells would like to try a yet-untested model EGR3 robot, they agree.
The EGR3—nicknamed "Eager"—is designed to learn like a real child; a self-aware robot, it learns by trial and error, and the fact that it is capable of independent thought prompted LifeCorp to pull this particular model from production. Eager soon becomes part of the Bell family, although Gavin's sister Fleur Bell is embarrassed by the robot's unsophisticated appearance, which is not at all like the sleek BDC4 model her friend Marcie has. However, the BDC4's soon begin rebelling against their owners. Eager, who has developed the capacity for love, sadness, and joy, is aware of the danger his family faces, and he exhibits the kind of bravery and growth that makes him wonder if he is actually alive. A Kirkus Reviews critic commented that, "while Eager' adventure isn't thrilling, his discoveries about life, formed through amusing conversations with virtual reality Socrates, are thought-provoking." Elizabeth Bush noted in the Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books that Fox "shines at times with flashes of humor and tenderness, as when Eager learns that sticky babies cannot be cleaned in a washing machine." School Library Journal contributor Sharon Rawlins wrote that Fox "raises thought-provoking questions about what it means to be human, the dangers of technology, and the concept of free will."
The adventures of Eager and the Bell family continue in Eager's Nephew and Eager and the Mermaid. A dozen years have gone by and self-aware robots can now reproduce. They are also illegal, so Eager has joined his sister Allegra and her shape-shifting robot son Jonquil in hiding. When he disguises himself as a servant-bot on his annual trip to visit the Bells, Eager is joined by Jonquil, and the two find themselves in trouble. Self-aware robots are no longer banned in Eager and the Mermaid; in fact, the government is gathering them together to help battle a planet-wide technological crisis. Although Eager enjoys the company of other robots, he worries that things—including his new robot friends—may not be what they seem. Praising Eager's Nephew, Horn Book contributor Vicky Smith noted Fox's discussion of "questions of morality and identity," and dubbed the novel "good fun," while School Library Journal critic Walter Minkel commented that the adventure and humor in the story is "both … restrained and clever."
Biographical and Critical Sources
Booklist, June 1, 2004, Todd Morning, review of Eager, p. 1716; October 15, 2006, Todd Morning, review of Eager's Nephew, p. 45.
Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books, June, 2004, Elizabeth Bush, review of Eager, p. 417.
Horn Book, July-August, 2004, Peter D. Sieruta, review of Eager, p. 451; September-October, 2006, Vicky Smith, review of Eager's Nephew, p. 582.
Kirkus Reviews, May 15, 2004, review of Eager, p. 491; August 1, 2006, review of Eager's Nephew, p. 785.
School Library Journal, August, 2004, Sharon Rawlins, review of Eager, p. 121; January, 2007, Walter Minkel, review of Eager's Nephew, p. 128.