The author and illustrator of the Zita the Spacegirl series returns with a lovely graphic novel that is nearly wordless. A little girl climbs out of her bedroom window and heads out into the nearby junkyard where she discovers a strange round object. Upon pressing the button on top, the object transforms into a small robot that has trouble even staying on its feet. But the little robot has been missed in the factory and a huge robot is coming to reclaim it. Meanwhile, the girl and the robot make friends with cats, discover flowers, skip rocks, and play tag. That’s when they realize that another robot is on its way. Now the girl has to figure out how to keep the robot safe while she is also learning the skills of being a good friend.
Hatke has a wonderful sense of story in this graphic novel. The fact that he can tell such a varied story with so few words is testament to the power of his artwork. The story moves from quiet moments of connection between the girl and the robot to times of fast action and chases. Those little quiet moments are presented with a gorgeous solemnity that is occasionally made even richer by moments of humor. The action is riveting and sharp, contrasting beautifully with the quieter moments. The pacing is dynamic and energetic, creating a book that can easily be devoured in mere minutes.
Yet the book is also worth lingering over. The connection between the two main characters is told in such a shining way that this is not a book to rush through. The balance of the book is so well done, from the design of the pages to the skill used to keep readers fascinated and also touched by the budding friendship. Hatke should be congratulated for creating a book with an African-American girl as the one who is drawn to tools and robots. She often uses her tools to fix things, showing that she has knowledge as well as interest. The incorporation of STEM is done with subtlety and yet is also pervasive through the entire book.
Strong and lovely, this graphic novel for younger readers will entrance lovers of robots and science fiction. It’s also a great pick for those ages that are a bit young for most graphic novels but still long to be reading them as well as for young reluctant readers who will enjoy the illustrations and the little bit of text. Appropriate for ages 4-7.
Reviewed from digital galley received from First Second and Edelweiss.