A book that is as helpful as its protagonist.

ROBOT THE ROBOT IS HERE TO HELP!

From the Robot the Robot series , Vol. 1

A robot learns how to get in touch with their own feelings and finds ways to help a lonely newcomer, a hungry extraterrestrial pet, and a pair of grown-ups with rigid views on binary gender roles.

Wheeling about the orbiting Science Outpost B-333, looking for ways to be helpful, Robot resembles R2-D2 in the very simple cartoon illustrations, though they have both a face and a habit of changing color in each chapter. They first have a comfy talk about personal reactions with Dr. Grbzl, a froglike therapist, then an amusing conversation with two scowling guards aboard a visiting spacecraft: “Are you a boy or a girl?” one asks. “No,” Robot responds. Next, learning through trial and error that a cute bunnylike creature is actually a ravening “vexzor” whose “favorite foods were scientists and crewmembers,” Robot finds an acceptable dietary substitute, and lastly they make Yuli, a new cloud person from planet Cumuli who communicates only in Cumulan Sign Language, welcome with an overture of friendship. Robot is assigned no pronoun until adopting “they” in the course of arguing with the guards. Occasional “science words” like “assessment” or “binary” are bolded and defined in a glossary at the end. Early readers have come a long way from the topics and tropes of Amelia Bedelia, and though in vocabulary these four miniepisodes stand at a relatively advanced level, emergent readers will be comfortable with both their format and their themes and messages.

A book that is as helpful as its protagonist. (Early reader. 6-9)

Pub Date: Aug. 26, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-0878-7552-1

Page Count: 88

Publisher: Huggle Bug Books

Review Posted Online: June 17, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2020

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A close encounter of the best kind.

FIELD TRIP TO THE MOON

Left behind when the space bus departs, a child discovers that the moon isn’t as lifeless as it looks.

While the rest of the space-suited class follows the teacher like ducklings, one laggard carrying crayons and a sketchbook sits down to draw our home planet floating overhead, falls asleep, and wakes to see the bus zooming off. The bright yellow bus, the gaggle of playful field-trippers, and even the dull gray boulders strewn over the equally dull gray lunar surface have a rounded solidity suggestive of Plasticine models in Hare’s wordless but cinematic scenes…as do the rubbery, one-eyed, dull gray creatures (think: those stress-busting dolls with ears that pop out when squeezed) that emerge from the regolith. The mutual shock lasts but a moment before the lunarians eagerly grab the proffered crayons to brighten the bland gray setting with silly designs. The creatures dive into the dust when the bus swoops back down but pop up to exchange goodbye waves with the errant child, who turns out to be an olive-skinned kid with a mop of brown hair last seen drawing one of their new friends with the one crayon—gray, of course—left in the box. Body language is expressive enough in this debut outing to make a verbal narrative superfluous.

A close encounter of the best kind. (Picture book. 6-8)

Pub Date: May 14, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-8234-4253-9

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Margaret Ferguson/Holiday House

Review Posted Online: Feb. 6, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2019

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An enigmatic, quirky representation of an active imagination in search of understanding and companionship.

MAGIC CANDIES

A child finds connection to the world all around in this Korean import.

The illustrations in this unusual picture book achieve a 3-D effect reminiscent of claymation. The opening scene shows an aerial view of a playground scattered with maple and gingko leaves; a tethered dog watches a child aiming at marbles. Accustomed to spending time alone and solitary play, Tong Tong’s fertile imagination infuses a bag of assorted spherical hard candies with powers that give voice to unlikely speakers, such as the living room sofa and Marbles the old dog, each speaking with Tong Tong to share a sentient perspective. The hard candies also channel the tough love hidden within Tong Tong’s father and Grandma’s bubbly, reassuring voice emanating from another realm. The candies’ magic reveals yet another dimension when Tong Tong is drawn outdoors to witness nature’s beauty as copious falling leaves bid farewell to the season. Through these uncanny exchanges, Tong Tong not only makes surprising discoveries, but also delves into complex emotions, celebrates a continuing relationship with Grandma, and takes courageous steps toward a tantalizing conclusion. The enhanced artwork establishes depth and perspective, featuring details some may find initially unsettling—along with the cryptic, open-ended narrative. That said, depictions of facial expressions are skillful and endearing, and the interplay between text and illustrations will cause readers to linger and ponder.

An enigmatic, quirky representation of an active imagination in search of understanding and companionship. (Picture book. 6-9)

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-5420-2959-9

Page Count: 48

Publisher: Amazon Crossing Kids

Review Posted Online: July 14, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2021

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