A curious little girl wanders out of her family’s trailer and goes exploring. She discovers a robot, still in his box, accidentally-on-purpose activates it, and makes a new friend. The only thing is, that little robot is missed at his factory, and some bigger, not very friendly robots are on the lookout to get him back. This is the story behind Ben Hatke’s (Zita the Spacegirl) newest graphic novel, Little Robot.
I love Ben Hatke’s work. I’ve gushed on these very pages about his Zita the Spacegirl series and his book, Julia’s House for Lost Creatures. He finds the fantastic in the everyday human, and the human in the otherworldly fantastic. That he can communicate so many good feelings and emotions to children using the fantastic, whether he uses monsters and housework, little girls befriending space aliens, or robots and introverted children, is a gift.
The little girl is never named, which works wonderfully with little girls who will put themselves in her spot as they read. She can’t connect with the neighborhood kids – we see her look almost longingly at a school bus stop before taking off on her own adventure – but she connects with this little robot that she powers up. She runs off to explore with him, bringing him into her world, and he walks beside her, trusting her completely and sees life through her eyes.
Hatke empowers little girls in his books by bestowing them with the gifts of introspection and communication. They get things done, whether on their own or with someone else, but they are able to communicate what they need after taking a moment two think things out and form a plan of action. The girl in Little Robot, clearly an introvert, chooses to reach out to a robot. He’s newly conscious and doesn’t carry the chaos that groups of people can bring. He’s a blank slate, essentially, and she is able to guide him through her world, communicating with him and showing him around. She urges him to stay put while she scopes out the area, making sure the surroundings are safe for them both. It’s a great friendship that we get to watch unfold.
This is not only a sweet and wonderful book about friendship, though – it’s a great maker space selection! This is a little girl who’s comfortable with a tool belt and she tinkers with a robot! Get this book right next to your Legos, your Play-Doh, and your Raspberry Pi, and get making! Leave this book around for kids to get some ideas – leave some blocks and bricks around, too, and your kids may surprise you with what they’ll create.
Little Robot is out on September 1, but make sure you pre-order this now, so you can expect it the day it arrives in stores. You’ll want this on your shelves and in the hands of every little girl – and boy – you know. The Macmillan page (the publisher’s distributor) has a great preview of the book, which I’ve shared here.
Writer & Artist: Ben Hatke
Publisher: First Second
On-Sale: September 1, 2015