Books on the Blog: The Wild Robot
by Linda Walker
Robots…what do I know about them?
“Danger, Danger Will Robinson,” the robot in Lost in Space calls out its repetitive warnings. Will was always in trouble. This lumbering mechanical alarm system didn’t even have a name? Rosie from the Jetsons, a frilly aproned house keeper rolled around on a single leg offering cheery advice. Two of my favorites were Crow T and Tom from Mystery Science Theater. Along with Joel, their creator, they are forced to watch B-rated Sci-Fi movies. Their critiques were always humorous. And then from the first Star Wars movie I fell for R2-D2 and C-3PO. Who wouldn’t? C-3PO was all decorum and procedure speaking millions of languages. On the other hand, there was the mischievous R2-D2, the bleeping rolling vacuum cleaner shaped character everyone wanted to call, friend. Their personalities and actions appealed to me.
Peter Brown, author of The Curious Garden, introduced me to a new favorite robot, Roz. She is the main character in his 2016 release, The Wild Robot. A hurricane’s lashing rain and wind sinks a cargo ship loaded with hundreds of crates. One washes up onto a wild rock island. Inside that crate is a robot. By fate, some playful otters discover the broken box. Curious by nature, they paw at the contents and click activate the robot. As you know robots are programmed by their creators to store and compute data. They do not learn or have emotions. When Roz is turned on her survival instinct for which she has been programmed kicks in but so does something else…a new feeling – curiosity.
As she moves about the island wilderness, she learns to adapt to her new surroundings. However, the animals living there are suspicious. She is so strange. She is too different. She doesn’t hunt, doesn’t eat. She is a MONSTER! And then the accident. Roz unintentionally causes an avalanche of broken tree branches and tumbling rocks. The aftermath: 2 dead geese and 4 smashed eggs. But amidst the destruction, Roz finds one surviving egg. It is the beginning of a bond between Roz, the robot, and Brightbill, the surviving goosling.
The story takes the reader on a journey with the pair as they learn from each other and the other island animals. With each new experience Roz begins to feel that this place is home, and Brightbill begings to see Roz as more than just a protector. But the peacefulness is all too soon disturbed by the RECO robots who come to reclaim Roz.
The contemporary subject matter and short chapters make The Wild Robot a mentor text worthwhile for classroom use in character and plot development. I would suggest visiting Peter Brown’s website, http://www.peterbrownstudio.com/ to read From the Blog, The Wild Robot Lives. Here Brown explains his process in writing the book. Share it with young writers for their own inspirations.
The Wild Robot melds nature and technology in a satisfying read.
Linda Walker was a teacher for 33 years with experience in several grade levels including teaching children with diverse learning abilities. She is a 2005 Fellow of the National Writing Project. For many summers Linda has facilitated writing specialty courses for the PAWLP Young Writers and Readers Program.