Two hundred years from now, young Arno gets bossed around by his personal, wearable MiniMachine automaton. Until he doesn’t.
Everything is regulated in Chwast’s futuristic tale. Arno wakes up in his bed in Happy Family Complex Number 88, just one of 5,183 families living in the bubble-domed, fully automated complex. His personal MiniMachine barks commands at him. “Get up.” “Put on your tan jumpsuit.” (All the boys wear tan jumpsuits; girls wear blue tops and red jumpers.) “Wait for the school jet,” which in Chwast’s stylized, highly entertaining cartoon artwork looks like a helicopter made out of a shoe box—hokey futurism. At school, the robot teacher takes the racially diverse class (Arno is white) on a field trip to the Zoo Garden, where one display is our current age, when “there were many kinds of animals and trees and flowers all over the world.” Arno is smitten by a bird (conveniently labeled) and sneaks it under his cap. Meanwhile, Arno’s MiniMachine continue to make demands: “Play baseball with your friends”—but Arno remembers the bird, which has hurt its wing, so Arno brings it home and cares for it. Arno ignores his MiniMachine until it blows a fuse and Arno is able to enjoy bird song instead. The social commentary is plain as day; whether kids are able to overlook the Jetsons-style doodads to see it is another matter.
A cautionary tale for our automating times. (Picture book. 4-8)