I love a good robot book, especially when it is brilliantly illustrated. And, while these stories and their illustrations are pretty different, both picture books are wonderfully written, brilliantly illustrated and very much worth reading. And reading. And reading.
clink by Kelly DiPucchio is the story of an old robot ("even his dust had rust," "even his creaks made squeaks,") wasting away inside the Robot Shoppe as he waits to go home with someone who needs him. DiPucchio takes what could have been a story we've heard before and adds some charming, unique elements that makes this a book you won't mind reading over and over again and a book your kids will remember long into adulthood. Working with these details, Matthew Myers brings the little robot that makes (mostly burnt) toast and plays music to life and makes him utterly endearing, if, like me, robots are your thing... Myers has a rich, painterly style of illustration that gives clink a retro feel that works perfectly with the story. The other 'bots imagined by DiPucchio are fantastic and fantastically illustrated by Myers. Zippy can play baseball and clean the house, Penny can make chocolate chip cookies and do homework and Blade can cut and style hair.
When a young boy makes several visits to the shop but never buys a 'bot, the shop owner tries to tempt him with fancier, newer robots, but the boy is not swayed. Clink has all but given up on life and shut himself down, but when he hears the boy playing the harmonica (with a superb illustration by Myers that shows Clink's reflection in the shiny harmonica) something inside him wakes up. I love robot stories and there are so few out there, probably because it's not a very versatile subject for a story. Nevertheless, DiPucchio's story is full of imagination, inspiration and affection. And I am so thrilled to have discovered Matthew Myers' and his fantastic artwork! He reminds me of a mix of a few of my longtime favorite children's book illustrators, Adam Rex, Mark Teague and David Shannon and I love the way you can almost see the layers of paint that go into his illustrations. For a very cool glimpse into Myer's method, click How I Work to see his process, which includes wading through garbage to find just the right surface (the lid to a toilet basin in this case) to paint on! I can't wait to see Myer's next book, Bartholomew Biddle and the Very Big Wind by Gary Ross that's due out November of this year. If you have a minute, the book trailer for clink is short, sweet and perfectly scored. Best of all, clink has BLUEPRINTS in the front of the book (as seen in the trailer) and a nifty little advertisement on the back cover.
Boy + Bot
Boy + Bot, written by Ame Dyckman and illustrated by Dan Yaccarino is a clever take on the realm of robots but also a subtle story about differences and similarities. Dan Yaccarino's cheerfully bright palette and crisp style are perfectly suited to this sweet story.
Actually, Boy + Bot is also very funny. When a boy, out in the woods collecting pinecones, meets a robot, they become fast friends despite their differences. When Bot accidentally gets turned off, the boy takes him home in his wagon with the hopes of reviving/repairing him. There is a very funny scene which strikes me as a uniquely kid-like gesture, when the boy feeds the unresponsive Bot applesauce. The boy gives up and goes to sleep and this is when Bot's power switch gets bumped on. Then it's Bot's turn to worry about the boy. Just as Bot is about to try to put a fresh battery in the boy, his inventor comes in and sets everything straight. Then we are treated to Yaccarino's joyful illustrations as the pair plays together, sharing in their similarities and allowing for their differences. I made Boy + Bot sound more didactic than it is. While there is a subtle message, Boy + Bot is really just a fantastic story that is fun to look at and fun to read.