Friday, February 8, 2008


PUBLISHER: First Second

FORMAT: Trade paperback
PAGES: 208
COLOR: Full color
ISBN-10: 1-59643-108-3
ISBN-13: 978-1-59643-108-9

Dog is excited. He is expecting a package in the mail and is giddy when the mail carrier finally delivers the goods. Dog opens it and begins assembling his mail-order robot and soon-to-be friend. They have good times, Dog and Robot, watching movies, reading books and hanging out. But when a trip to the beach leaves Robot rusting in the sand, Dog runs away. He does come back, mind you, but the beach is closed and he cannot get to his friend. Over the next year, Robot is rusted solid like the Tin Man in the Wizard of Oz, dreaming of what his life might have been. Dog gets lonely too, and he spends his time trying to fill the void with new friends. What becomes of the two? That is the story of ROBOT DREAMS.

With the exception of some onomatopoetic sound effects, Sara Varon knows how to tell a story without ever writing down a single word. The true nature of friendship is revealed in this sincere and unpretentious story of Dog and Robot. It is sad, but not heart wrenching; it is poignant yet delicate – beautiful in its simplicity. Friendship is the basis of all human contact. Without it, we are reduced to a primitive shell of misery, and this story explores the truths of friendship is its purest form. Varon does a good job showing the pains of friendship without overwhelming the reader. It is a good story and will serve children well.

I introduced comics to some inner-city children at an after-school tutoring program. They stood in line to read ROBOT DREAMS. It was amazingly popular with the second through fifth graders. They could not wait to read a wordless comic.

Using a soft color palette, Varon creates a tender world where Dog and Robot can live and feel and ultimately deal with life as it happens. While the art is simple, there is depth and feeling pushing through the story. The illustrations compliment the story well and are crafted with the intended audience in mind.

My Rating: All Ages
Publisher’s Rating: Younger readers

This is a well-crafted tale for young kids and it does not matter if they can read or not. It is a subject that all people care about: friendship.

ROBOT DREAMS is a good place to start when exploring the building blocks of story telling. The five elements of fiction (setting, characters, plot, theme and style) are all present and easy for kids to dissect and understand. Teachers could also pick up on and help students explore other elements such as how to discern between what really happens in a story and dream sequences. In this case, dream sequences have a squiggly, rounded border.

Of course students will want to explore the theme of the book, which is friendship. The friendship process can be an exciting and painful journey for children and adults. ROBOT DREAMS helps readers make sense of the progression that is friendship. In this story, there are those who find friends and those who have to create them. I know that kids can relate to that. This is a great edition to any classroom.

Highly Recommended
ROBOT DREAMS is nothing if not unique and expressive. It can be enjoyed by kids of all ages. First Second Books has a knack for finding comic creators who have a different story to tell and a distinct way to tell it.

I handed this book to my 7-year-old second grader and she sat down and devoured it, turning page after page until it was finished it. She liked how Dog and Robot became friends and how they each made new friends at the end of the book.

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