The Wild Robot
Little Brown, 2016 273 pgs
After a devastating hurricane destroys a cargo ship one lone robot, model ROZZUM unit 7134, survives and washes ashore onto a island inhabited only by forest creatures. At first the animals resist the strange intruder, but Roz eventually learns to speak the language of the forest animals and, by lending a hand where needed, starts to make friends and break down barriers. When she accidentally crashes into a goose nest, obliterating all but one egg, Roz feels responsible. She takes care of the remaining egg and when a little gosling is born, Roz adopts him as her own son and names him Brightbill. Roz learns how to be a mother, all while eliciting help in building shelter for her new charge and seeking advise on how to raise a young goose. Throughout the summer Roz and Brightwing have many adventures helping the other forest creatures, making friends, and maturing and acclimating to the environment. As fall arrives a new challenge awaits the unconventional family: Brightwing must migrate to a warmer climate leaving his mother behind. Roz has a difficult winter, as do all the remaining animals, until at last spring arrives. Spring brings Brightwing back to the island for a joyful reunion, as well as new unwanted guests. Roz's whereabouts has been detected and soldier robots have been sent to retrieve her. Roz must depend on her furry friends to help her remain in her home and banish the unwanted intruders.
I have long enjoyed Peter Brown's picture books and was eagerly awaiting his fiction debut. The Wild Robot manages to capture Brown's quirky sensibilities, all while showcasing his inspired illustrations. This book, while quiet in nature, has a quickly moving plot and a simple, yet entertaining story line that will engage readers and keep them turning pages. The chapters are short, the margins are big and print is a decent size for readers of all ability levels. Brown combines his love of nature and technology in this story, making it something completely unique to children's fiction and helping to spark the imaginations of his audience. Robots are cool and are of interest to today's kids. The premise of a robot surviving in the wild will draw in young people. Themes conveyed in this novel include protecting the environment, acceptance of non-traditional families, its okay to be different, cooperation is beneficial to society, being nice goes a long way, and little guys can rise to the top. The real stars of the book are the sophisticated illustrations, which will help draw in reluctant readers and greatly enhance the text. This is a deceivingly simple and sweet story, which has a lot to say, all while entertaining young people and helping to allow their imaginations to soar.