In a world of robots, a family gets a new delivery. Cathode has gotten a new baby brother called Flange. The baby comes in a box, advertising it as a new model. Quickly, Cathode’s parents start to assemble the new baby, but it seems that babies have gotten more complex since Cathode was assembled. The parents call on an uncle to come and lend a hand in building Flange. Though Cathode offers to help, she is pushed to the side as Uncle Manny starts to work. But he doesn’t follow the directions and with some “improvements” and a lack of software updates, it all goes wrong. With help from her dog, Cathode steps in, follows the directions, and does the software updates. Finally, there is a newly assembled baby in the family. But wait, there might be another surprise for this family!
Wiesner has won multiple Caldecott Awards and Honors. This picture book is a bit of a departure from his more serious books, offering a merry look at a robotic land where families are much the same as they are now. Cathode is a great character, undaunted by being ignored and willing to make her own choices. The text is strictly speech bubbles, allowing the illustrations to shine and the pacing to be wonderfully brisk.
The illustrations are done in watercolors that glow on the page, filled with the light of robot eyes and a white glowing floor that lights everything. The comic book framing of the illustrations works well as the action picks up, offering glimpses of what is about to go wrong before it actually does.
An engaging look at robots, STEM and sisterhood. Appropriate for ages 3-5.
Clo has grown up on the road with her father. They move from village to village, taking small things every time but also repairing and fixing paintings too. When her father doesn’t return one morning, Clo puts their regular leaving plan in action, waiting for him in the woods. But her father doesn’t come, instead sending a boy with a strange ticket and a garbled written message to head to the harbor. There Clo finds she has a half passage aboard a strange ship. They take her to a strange gray island where there are no seasons, no day or night. Clo must wait there for her father to join her. She makes one friend, Cary, on the island where she can’t understand what anyone else is saying except for him. Her grandmother has taken her in, trying to force her to eat a strangely cold and fishy stew that Clo refuses to even try. Her grandmother wants Clo to work, but Clo is busy trying to watch for her father and to figure out the mysteries of the island itself. Clo steadily figures out the mysteries of the island, but it may not be enough to save herself and her father.
Based on Greek mythology, this children’s novel is a marvel of a book. It steadily reveals itself, a puzzle started by an ink-blotched note, a strange transport via ship, and then an even more odd island. One knows there is more going on, but the book holds it back, revealing it to the reader just before Clo herself begins to figure things out. The ties to mythology are dazzling, offering the Fates and Icarus as major characters, though not obvious at first. The pacing here is just right, never losing itself in the grayness of the island nor moving too quickly to resolution.
Clo is a great heroine, braver than many would be in her situation. She is opinionated and stubborn, two qualities that serve her well as she figures out the mysteries of the island and does not bow down to the pressure to conform. Her connection with others serves as a beacon for her to find a way forward, even as it threatens her own existence.
Tantalizing, puzzling and very satisfying, this Greek myth fantasy dazzles. Appropriate for ages 9-12.
Reviewed from e-galley provided by Little, Brown Books for Young Readers.