Published April 2016
I am new to the genre of ‘middle grade reads’, but I am always looking to expand my reading horizons, and that means reading books that may be below my reading level, as well as above.
The Wild Robot is a book that I stumbled across on one of my many Amazon escapades. Much like my experience with the only other younger book I have read, Pax, I saw the cover of The Wild Robot, I glimpsed a few of the illustrations waiting for me inside, and I knew I needed this book in my life. You can check out my review for Pax here.
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.
As Roz slowly befriends the animals, the island starts to feel like home–until, one day, the robot’s mysterious past comes back to haunt her.
I really loved the idea of this story. A cargo ship carrying thousands of robots capsizes in the middle of the ocean, and only one robot survives. But she doesn’t just survive; instead, our robot has to discover what it means live. I feel like this is something I can relate to as an adult. There is an enormous difference between surviving and living. Going through the motions of everyday life, breathing, working, eating, sleeping, doesn’t mean I am alive. We all have dreams and goals, and without those things, we would be empty robot shells. I thought that the premise of this story was very sweet, and I enjoyed reading about the animals as well.
It was only after I finished the book that I started to draw some lessons and meaning from the seemingly superficial story, once I really sat and thought about it. While I was reading, I was distracted more with the simple sentences and the pretty pictures, rather than focusing on what the author was really trying to say. The main theme that I found touched every corner of the book was that kindness always prevails. Roz is treated terribly at first by all of the animals that inhabit the island. She is shunned, called names, and attacked, but she continues on and eventually becomes a mother figure to the entire animal population.
I also really enjoyed how Brown breathed lifelike descriptions into his cartoonish animals. It was an odd combination, but it worked. When ever the animals spoke with each other, he incorporated their species sounds into the conversations. Not only did this make me laugh on several occasions, but the reader is consistently reminded that this story isn’t about of animal speaking English. No, instead, the author is translating their animal conversations to something the reader can understand, and I liked that.
This is a relatively long review for a book that took me two and a half hours to read, so I will wrap this up. My main issue with the story was that there was no real conflict until the last 30 pages of the book. It was just a story, but with none of the typical rising action, climax, falling action we learned about in middle school. It was simply a narrative with a plot that was developed at the very end. This doesn’t mean I didn’t enjoy the story, because I certainly did. I think I almost would have enjoyed it more though if it would have remained a simple narrative of the day to day life of the wild robot.