Book Review: The Wild Robot

Title:               The Wild Robot

Author:           Peter Brown

Illustrator:     Peter Brown

Publisher:      Little Brown & Company

Published:     2016

Genre(s):        Middle Grade; Children’s Fiction; Science Fiction

Pages:              277

Read Time:    5 Days (Casual Reading)

 

 

.::Publisher’s Summary::.

             Can a robot survive in the wilderness?

When robot Roz opens her eyes for the first time, she discovers that she is alone on a remote, wild island. She has no idea how she got there or what her purpose is–but she knows she needs to survive. After battling a fierce storm and escaping a vicious bear attack, she realizes that her only hope for survival is to adapt to her surroundings and learn from the island’s unwelcoming animal inhabitants.

 

.::Personal Summary::.

             Circumstances that cannot be controlled push Roz off of her cargo ship to a water-locked island home to a variety of critters set in their ways. Built to adapt, Roz wakes when curious otters hit her power button. Now she must learn to live in the wilderness.

But will it come easily? With a database of information available in an instant, how will Roz apply this data to her new life as a Wild Robot? Will the animals accept her as one of their own?

 

.::AVERAGE RATING::.

*5 out of 5*

The review of this book is based on 4 pre-determined categories (Technical, Creative, Recommendation, and Personal). These areas, unless otherwise specified, are reviewed as objectively as possible for the benefit of readers. This is the average rating between those categories. Below the line are the detailed explanations for the ratings of each category:

 

  • Technical (4/5)
  • Creative (5/5)
  • Recommendation (5/5)
  • Personal, Biased (5/5)

 5-stars

 

 

.::TECHNICAL RATING::.

*4 out of 5*

4-stars

How easy is this novel to read? Does everything make sense? Is there anything about the writing that would detract from the quality of the story?

 

When I write an article such as this, I mean to have a conversation with you. This is my way of engaging you (the reader) directly. Though it may not seem that way, it is always my intention to make this a discussion.

What relevance does that blurb have, you (the reader) may be asking.

Well, thanks for asking!

Think way back on those elementary school days; think of books categorized as “Choose Your Own Adventure.” Those texts were designed for you to engage the text and dictate the story were all the rage for a period of time in the 90s. Personally, I lived for the day when I reached my A.R. Points and could choose free read books specifically for “Choose Your Own Adventure” thrills. Now this concept lies in the dark back allies of the fanfiction neighborhood of the Internet.

Since then, though, I do not see second person narration very often. Another thing you do not see, reader, is blended narration. I can now discuss the actual message I’m trying to share here…

“The Wild Robot” includes this dual-type narration style. As far as I could tell when reading, this narrator is nowhere in the story. By definition, this would be your standard third person narrator. Next we would determine the full range of the perspective. Is it third person objective; third person omniscient; third person limited? It has been my conclusion that in this layer of the storytelling that the narrator was intended to be either third person limited – with a focus on Roz, our robot – but also potentially third person objective. I do sway to and fro on this matter, though, because the narrator does know the feelings of Roz but sometimes it spreads out to other characters, too. Every so often we learn of Brightbill’s emotions, and towards the latter half of the book there are scenes completely without Roz. So I lean more towards the fact that this is third person objective, but sometimes if feels like the all too familiar readings of a third person limited.

BUT WAIT, THERE’S MORE!

(Please tell me in the comments that you read this in Billy Mays’ voice).

(Also, please tell me that you know who Billy Mays actually is…)

Blended narration is what I said, right? What does that even mean? Is that a real type of narration? No but allow me to explain, reader, because my direct contact with you in this article is intentional. When I address you this way it is second person. I am apart of this conversation and this text. You know what we are not apart of though?

“The Wild Robot.”

And still, the narrator addresses the reader directly on a regular basis throughout the events of the story. As we go through Roz’s life in the wilderness, which spans about one year, the narrator speaks to us about all the goings-on of the island. This is not a part of a third person narrative – because it actually the definition of a second person perspective.

If these things get under your skin, then you’ll understand why it is I couldn’t give a perfect technical score. Though I was not personally deterred by the narration, there were aspects that it made me a little uncomfortable because I wanted this uniform and tidy narration throughout the story. However, I must say that the author did well in making this blended style work for the content.

Another thing that really frustrated me is something that made me upset with the last book I reviewed (post found here). When authors choose not to use complete sentences or intentionally break up the text in a more modern presentation, it is actually really hard for me to read.

Before anyone asks – allow me to inform you that I am the person that writes full sentences with proper grammar and paragraphs in a text message. So yes, fundamentally this style is something that digs into my soul. Regardless, I was able to look past this realistically minor detail because the narration was a more glaring faux pas to me.

At the end of the day, reader, I have to say that this was a genuinely great text. These issues end up being minor annoyances at best when you get the full picture of Peter Brown’s “The Wild Robot.” A lot of care obviously went into this piece and it’s work like this that makes me so passionate about becoming a published author myself – so major kudos to this man for his writing (and his illustrations).

 

.::CREATIVE RATING::.

*5 out of 5*

5-stars

Is the message of this story unique? Did the content of this text stand out to competitors in the same category? Was the quality of the content prioritized in the storytelling, or was the quantity of content seemingly the most important thing?

 

Now, I never fancied myself a “science fiction” reader. Sure I will read it, but I am far more interested in watching it than anything else. Our household reading interests are distinctly split up and sci-fi is a genre that belongs to my husband. This is his are of expertise. When my son asked me specifically to read it ahead of him, I was surprised. I actually started the book three times before I actually read it because every time I tried reading the first chapter I was deeply distracted.

Boy, oh boy, am I so happy that I’ve read this book now!

Allow me first to let you know that Roz is a Rozzum Unit robot. In the text Roz is identified as a ‘she,’ which may be due to the fact that she becomes the mother to a gosling. She is an adaptive piece of technology. When the Rozzum units were created the intention was always that each unit would become specialized to the owner’s needs. Our special Rozzum Unit ends up being washed away in the wreckage of a cargo ship, though, and finds herself stranded on an island. Roz must adapt to the wildlife around her.

That concept alone is intriguing! Perhaps my lack of exposure to sci-fi is why I am excited about such a simple concept. My limited scope aside, I really felt that objectively the content matches the age level it targets within this specific genre. Sci‑fi is something I believe a lot of people tag as “intelligent” and “involved” reading; sometimes maybe they see it as “boring” text. Not “The Wild Robot,” though! Peter Brown perfectly incorporates illustrations throughout the novel that allows the reader to be completely immersed in this wild world alongside Roz.

Another detail about this specific story that I was so excited about was the realistic, and somehow extremely low key, “violence.” Now, nobody likes hearing that word being related to the book a child is supposed to be reading. This is not the worst thing your child could be reading, believe you me. I work at a school and have seen some of the reading material that children have access too – this is nothing in comparison. Aside from that, the “violence” is not graphic. It is mostly just allusions to the occurrence of violence than anything else.

This book is realistic in the way it addresses balance in the animal kingdom, the cycle of life, and the way seasons affect these creatures we share our planet with every single day. When I read it – I had mommy fears: Will my son cry when he reads this; Will kids understand what this means; and Is this too dark for a kid to even grasp properly? I, as moms all over the world eventually do, was worrying over absolutely nothing. When he was done, he informed me that it was sad, but that these are simply things that happen in the world. His maturity surprised me, but even more I am still amazed that Peter Brown was able to broach some seriously deep topics in such a way that I was happy to leave this book in my son’s hands.

I would love to go into more details about why this is such a special book in terms of the creative choices Brown made, but then I really would begin spoiling the entire novel. I simply encourage you to pick it up and read it yourself.

 

 

.::RECOMMENDATION RATING::.

*5 out of 5*

5-stars

Would you feel comfortable recommending this novel to others to read? What would you say about it to others? Will this book stay with you for a long period of time?

 

Why, Alixx, would you recommend a book with very specific genre tags? Why, Alixx, would you confidently recommend a book with a 5/5 rating with such a specific target audience that is genre fiction? To you I say: because it is fantastic!

In my original notes for the section I have this:

 

“Ding – because technically it is science fiction…

Ding – because there’s a distinct lack of human characters…

Ding – because some age-level readers may not be ready emotionally for the content…”

 

None of this is properly deterring. When reading this book – it doesn’t feel like a science fiction novel. When reading this book – it doesn’t matter that there are no humans because the animals are personified so exquisitely. When reading this book – you are invested in the progress of Roz and her friends. They really feel as though they are apart of your family. The narration matches the pace; the content; the pictures; and the story keep ahold of you from start to finish. My son finished this book even faster than I did (it took him only three days of block reading time to complete it).

If you’re familiar with Guided Reading Levels, this book is a level R, which is traditionally where you want your fourth graders to be at the beginning of a school year. If you are from a school district that uses a Lexile measurement instead, this would be approximately 770-830, possibly more on the lower end. The actual language used is not difficult, but the concepts may make it a little higher. All of that being said, in spite of the lower level of technical reading this book has so much to offer its reader. I won’t waste time explaining that here, of course, because I need to leave something for my final section. Just know that there are life lessons to be experienced and that in less than thirty seconds I’ll be elaborating on those lessons to further justify the rating for this section (and the next, and the last, and pretty much the whole book).

 

 

.::PERSONAL & 100% BIASED RATING::.

*5 out of 5*

 5-stars

 

How did you like this text? Was this worth your time reading? Was there anything about it that you were found unappealing? What would you change about this work?

 

As you have been reading this, I wonder if you question if I was actually unbiased at any point in time. My pure excitement for this novel has been overwhelmingly obvious as I build my review through each section. I admit myself, yes, I probably had some trouble removing the passion I have for this story in the portions where I review the book objectively. That being said, please allow me to finish explaining what it is that makes me so giddy for “The Wild Robot,” and ultimately it’s sequel – “The Wild Robot Escapes” – which I discovered is on pre-order while writing this article!

So, when I read a book I look for messages and lessons. (As I wrote this I thought back to the THEME lessons I was involved with at school. THEME is THE MEssage – do you get it? I wish I could show you the motions and sing the tune that the teachers use with their kids. I love it!) Sometimes I read through books as a parent, others as a still kind-of-young-adult (I mean, 25 isn’t that old, right). Then there are times I try to review the text as an intellectual or a social justice advocate – though social justice warrior sounds so much better. This novel made it hard to see messages from just one perspective. There are so many to be seen that it I cannot possibly say it is a good read for just one target audience. As such, I’m just going to make smaller subheads for the lessons I’m about to describe in short for you.

 

ADOPTION

Your adoptive parent is a real parent.

Brightbill, a goose, and Roz, a robot, do face early criticisms about their relationship as mother-son. It is very obvious to the forest creatures that Roz is not Brightbill’s biological parent. This is such a delicate subject even though, in my eyes, it should be a simple as breathing. Someone who loves you, takes care of you, and raises you to be the adult you are today – that person is a parent.

The problem is – for all the greatness that adoption brings, there’s somehow controversy about adopting children from other countries. Particularly, many people may think it is wrong to adopt outside of the country because of racist reasons (they won’t look like you) and social reasons (we have kids in our country that need homes). To me, the point is that we are giving kids homes. It should never matter how they differ from us or where it is they are from, the children are being loved by someone and are happier now with a family they can call their own.

Peter Brown may not have intentionally meant to send this message, though I feel that paired with the next lesson there’s no way it was accidental in nature. I am happy for it regardless. I feel as though this could be a great read for kids in the 8-12 age range that have been recently adopted or are just now discovering they were adopted. I think it shows truly that a parent is the person that assumes the role – not the person whose genetics match yours.

 

BULLYING / STEREOTYPES

You can overcome the adversity that you face from your peers.

As you would expect, the woodland creatures must adjust to Roz’s presence on the island. She is foreign and unfamiliar. It wouldn’t really be a novel if she didn’t face some conflict, or some resistance to her arrival. Roz must deal with the judgments of others and the stereotypes of labels given to her by strangers.

Though, it is not as easy for humans to avoid the emotional aspect of bullying and stereotyping that can leave someone ostracized, it shows that Roz does not let it deter her as she tries to make a place for herself in the woods. She does, however, become discouraged which I felt shows the reader that it is okay to see the disadvantage that a bullying victim may face. Nevertheless, she persisted and forged a path for her existence on the island.

 

DEATH / CIRCLE OF LIFE

Inevitably, life must end and so we should celebrate the life we have today.

             As I mentioned previously, there are instances and mentions of death. Animals in the forest face harsh weather and it does take the lives of some animals. There’s also a battle near the end of the book in which “children” must make difficult choices in order to protect not only Roz, but also the island that they live on and love. Peter Brown does a fantastic job of making everything feel natural. The narration doesn’t discourage the reader from feeling sad about the moment, but rather simply informs them that these things happen. This is just part of the world. Kids reading get an introduction to realities that many of them have already faced, or will be facing in coming years as family members from the older generations become ill or frail.

 

PERSERVERANCE

Try, try, try again. Never give up. 

This is pretty self-explanatory. Most texts involve a character that must keep going and trying and working in order to achieve a goal, or a perceived goal. Roz really is the epitome of perseverance, even as a robot, and reminds the reader that some things that may seem extremely farfetched and unlikely really can become realities.

 

GROWTH / SACRIFICE / RESPONSIBILITY

We must grow ever more responsible in our sacrifice to find and share happiness.

These three lessons ultimately end up being conjoined in some way as we grow, even as adults. It would be difficult and unwise to separate them into individual categories. So I’ll just keep them together and briefly detail where I see these lessons being most represented in “The Wild Robot.”

Roz and Brightbill are at the center of our story, but for me the real growth is in the supporting and background characters of the story. Those are the characters that have the biggest heart change. As it becomes apparent that Roz is not leaving and that she is incessant that she learn the ways of wildlife on the island, it is them who must change and grow.

As for sacrifice, this is sort of everywhere. Roz makes many sacrifices of time and resources for the island creatures. Brightbill makes self-sacrifices to honor the mother he has in Roz. The island creatures later make a great many sacrifices to protect Roz and Brightbill. A strong sense of community and sacrifice for one another is evident in the way that Peter Brown builds this world for his characters.

With growth and sacrifice comes responsibility. We cannot grow if we do not accept the responsibility of our actions and decisions. We cannot learn to make sacrifices for the greater good and future if we do not learn the responsibility behind it. However, the ending of the book, I feel, is where we see the biggest responsibility being taken – an immeasurable accountability. I cannot say anything on the ending without spoiling the entire story, so I’ll just have to end this review by encouraging you to simply read “The Wild Robot.” Experience everything Peter Brown has to share.

 

Read it yourself.

Read it with a friend.

Read it with your child.

Just Read It.

I don’t think you’ll be disappointed.

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