Comic Solutions

Little Robot

screen-shot-2016-09-10-at-3-04-35-pmLittle Robot
Ben Hatke
First Second
September 2015

There was once a little box that contained a little robot that fell off a little truck into a little stream where a little girl discovers it. The little girl likes robots and mechanical things and the two quickly become fast friends. Meanwhile, the robot is discovered to be missing from a factory! And another robot is sent to bring it back. The little girl and the little robot soon learn that friendship is not as easy as it seems, just as the other robot finds them! Can the little girl and the little robot learn to be good friends and defeat the other robot together? Or will this be the end?

So…where to start with this book? The cute story? The cute illustrations? Or the fact that the author, Ben Hatke, is one of my favorites? Yeah…let’s get that last part out of the way first. If you’ve read any of my other reviews, you’ll notice that Ben Hatke comes up…well everytime he has a new book come out. Why is that? Because Ben has consistently written compelling stories and crafting gorgeous illustrations. I first found him because of the Flight series where he was first showcasing the little girl that became Zita. But sometime shortly after that he vanished. Why? Well no one really knows, but I’d hazard a guess that space aliens, like that you see in Zita, and robots whisked him away to advance his training to the level it reappeared at a few years later. Since then he’s turned out hit after hit after hit that are just…well gorgeous. Ben knows how to tell a story and create beautiful illustrations that go along with it. And he doesn’t just and do the same thing time after time. Since finishing Zita he’s done a couple of children’s books, Little Robot, and the just released Mighty Jack (more on that in another review.) And while they have some overlap in story types, each of them stands on their own. And that’s what I love about Ben’s work.

In this book Ben really pushes himself with the story in that it’s mostly wordless. The first 20ish pages have no words and after that they’re fairly sparse. To the average person writing a wordless story looks easy. “No words, pfft that’s easy! Just put these two here and then….um…they er. Hrm.” It’s not quite as easy as we think it is. Because with a wordless story the pictures have to tell everything. Every little movement. Every little expression. Every color choice tells the reader what’s going on and it’s incredibly difficult to do. But that’s something that Ben actually excels at with his art. He has the practice and patience to even make us believe that a robot can express things with the way his arms droop or the slight lift of his eyes. And he’s always excelled at drawing young girls that really are some of the most expressive forces in nature. And that’s how he tells the story in this book. Blending a few written words and the art together. The characters “speak” in sound effects. Small changes in font size and punctuation are how they communicate with each other. And it works well here because Ben knows how to tell this type of story.

Ben’s artwork as always is gorgeous, but the one thing that is different that I have to point out is that the young girl is darker skinned. In this case the young girl comes from a poorer family, which is why she dresses as she does and is able to fix things the way she is, because she’s used to fending for herself. Why do I point this out? Well because it is something to be aware of when recommending/looking at the book. I’m fairly confident Ben isn’t making any type of social commentary here, because I have met him and I’ve read interviews he’s done, but other people haven’t and they might take this the wrong way. But they shouldn’t. Really what he’s doing is showing that little girls of any race can be heroes and accomplish things and that they can kick butt. Does it detract from the book at all? No and that’s why you should read this book. Because the character is a strong female character that Ben writes so well and is one that gives his hopes for the future.

This is one of those books that everyone can sit down and enjoy, because it has strong characters and an excellent story of just being strong and standing up for what you believe in. If this book doesn’t capture your attention…I’m not sure what will.

ARC provided from Gina at First Second

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