Robot Zot!

Robot Zot! by Jon Scieszka and David Shannon

Robot Zot is here to conquer the earth.  His battle cry rings out:  “Robot Zot – never fall.  Robot Zot – conquer all!”  He finds himself in a house and destroys a blender with his blaster.  He then wrestles a vacuum cleaner tube on his way to blast his enemy, which happens to be a TV.  But something surprising is waiting for Robot Zot!  His Queen!  He can only reach his ship if he makes it past the Commander General who is in his way and insists on licking his queen.

Robot Zot is a delightful romp of a book.  The combination of Scieszka’s text with Shannon’s art is irresistible.  Combine it with robots and outer space, and this is one book that you can expect to be read to tatters.  Scieszka’s text is humorous, fast-paced, and surprising.  The reveal of Robot Zot’s small size is done with such style in Shannon’s art as are other great humorous touches.  The two work together seamlessly, sharing punchlines and big laughs smoothly.

A must-read for children who love robots and space, this book could be purchased just for the explosion of the television set.   If read to a class, expect lots of blaster and explosive play.  Inventive, funny and a great joy, this book is appropriate for ages 4-7.

Reviewed from library copy.

Also reviewed by Fuse #8.

Binky the Space Cat

Binky the Space Cat by Ashley Spires

A new graphic novel series launches off with this first title.  Binky is a house cat who has never left the family “space station.”  But he is a cat with a purpose!  He is a space cat and will one day blast into outer space.  He can’t leave the space station without a helmet and other gear because he wouldn’t be able to breathe.  But even in the space station, he is surrounded by aliens.  He knows they are aliens because they can fly.  Readers will know they fly because they ARE flies.  Binky has to keep his special identity a secret from his humans.  So they don’t know of his ongoing research or the fact that he is building a space craft in his litter box. Will Binky blast off?  Or will his dreams fizzle out?

Spires has created a graphic novel with broad appeal.  Binky is a winning main character with his dreams, fears and bravery shown clearly.  This is a fresh-feeling book that has its own unique artistic style.  The illustrations are done in near sepia tones with bright bursts of red throughout.  They are filled with funny action.  Binky is portrayed as a cat with a round belly but lots of energy and drive. 

Young readers who enjoy more pictures with their books will be right at home here.  It is an easy graphic novel that does not speak down to young readers. 

Recommended for all library collections, this series deserves a spot on graphic novel shelves for elementary-aged readers.  I happily await the next Binky adventure.  Appropriate for ages 6-9.

Reviewed from copy received from publisher.

Also reviewed at Three Silly Chicks, A Year of Reading, 100 Scope Notes, and Young Readers.

Swamps of Sleethe

The Swamps of Sleethe by Jack Prelutsky, illustrated by Jimmy Pickering.

Climb into your spaceship and travel from one strange world to another, each with some strange twist and surprise.  It’s a trip that only Prelutsky could take you on with his signature mix of poetic humor and chills.  Each world is captured with a single poem that is paired with illustrations by Pickering which are equally funny and dark.  Part of the fun of the book is unscrambling the planets names into words that describe them.  Pure word fun from beginning to end!

Prelutsky takes readers from icy planets to dangerous forests.  You will visit planets with water you should not drink and planets with air you should not breathe.  Danger lurks around every corner, usually in surprising places with even more astonishing results.  This book is dark, showing one way after another to die on distant planets.  Middle-school and early elementary children will embrace it.  It’s not for preschoolers.

If you are asked to read for a 4th or 5th grade class, this book would be a perfect read aloud.  You will get gasps and giggles often at the same time.  Appropriate for ages 8-12.

Reviewed from copy received from publisher.

Also reviewed by A Patchwork of Books.

You Are the First Kid on Mars

You Are the First Kid on Mars by Patrick O’Brien

What would it be like to be the first kid on Mars?  This picture book takes readers on a journey to the red planet, offering intriguing details along the way.  First, readers learn a bit about the planet itself, then there is docking with the space station and the four month trip to get to Mars.  Landing on the dusty planet surface, plus a look at the station on Mars are highlights of the book.  Also intriguing is the question of life on Mars, answered without sensationalism. 

The entire book exudes a feeling of reality, which makes the reading all that more immediate and satisfying.  Children will find new questions as they read, intrigued by false gravity aboard the ship, inflated green houses, and robots used to explore the planets.  O’Brien’s text is like that of a nonfiction book for children, offering captions and a mix of close-ups and smaller images.  His illustrations are clearly paintings, but such lifelike ones that readers may just forget they aren’t looking at a photograph.

Sure to rocket right off the shelves, this book will satisfy space-loving kids.  Appropriate for ages 5-8. 

Check out O’Brien’s website for some gorgeous images from the book.

Children interested in Mars exploration will enjoy the Mars Rover Documentary that can be found on YouTube:

One Giant Leap

One Giant Leap by Robert Burleigh, paintings by Mike Wimmer.

In this stunning picture book, Wimmer’s remarkably realistic and expressive paintings are paired with Burleigh’s evocative and powerful verse.  Together the two capture the feeling of the moonwalk for Americans in 1969.  Children who have long known we reached the moon will be caught up in the drama of the landing and the uncertainty of the astronauts’ safe return. 

Burleigh’s poetry dances with a rhythm and deft pacing.  When readers are holding their breath with the tension, the poems come to a near halt too.  When readers are celebrating the accomplishment the poetry races, lifts, and spins.  Wimmer’s paintings are equally successful as they capture views that couldn’t be seen, scenes that were never viewed before.  They too are filled with realism, fear, and continually hope.

A masterful pairing of paintings and verse, this book soars.  Highly recommended for classrooms talking about the moon landing as well as children who are interested in space.  Appropriate for ages 5-8.