Monday, October 5, 2015
Little Robot, by Ben Hatke. First Second, Macmillan. Raincoast, 2015. $19.50 ages 6 and up
Hey! Come on.
Oh, you are going to love the little girl you meet in Ben Hatke's terrific new graphic novel. If you know his other work, you will have met Zita the Spacegirl. Now, you have a new heroine to admire, and you don't even know her name. It matters not!
A beautifully detailed and wordless forward allows readers to discover the single event that sets the story in motion. A box is bumped from a delivery truck, bounces off a bridge and lands in the waters below. It floats lazily along a meandering river.
When we meet the wee girl, she is furtively making her escape from her trailer park home by climbing out a side window. She makes her way to the bus stop to watch all the children leave for school. A hole in the fence allows a romp in a nearby backyard where she swings happily until the owner comes to the window. She flees. We are quick to learn this is her pattern for the long, lonely days on her own. She fishes a tool belt from a hiding place, and is on her way to new exploits.
Lo and behold, she sees the floating box, fishes it out and makes a new friend - a shiny robot who matches her in size. She helps as it struggles to find stability on land. Then, off they go. As she shows her new friend her world and fixes him when he needs to be fixed, the two don't realize that his absence has been noted, or that a seek-and-recover robot has been sent to find him. This pushes their story forward at a pace that will have young fans racing to find out what happens.
It is virtually wordless, and totally captivating. Full of the kind of adventure that every young child longs for, and understands. There are many lovely, quiet moments. They are made sweeter by the frenzied action that results with the addition of the much bigger robot bent on doing its job and bringing the little one back to the fold. It will be read again and again, as young 'readers' savor its story.
Here's an independent heroine with a heart and a longing for a new friend. She is feisty, capable and
worthy of our attention. I do hope we meet her in some future adventure.