Ben Hatke packs a lot into Little Robot‘s almost entirely wordless pages. In it, a little robot gets lost in the countryside and is met by a little girl who becomes his friend. The two have to overcome the differences between them and confront a relentless machine sent out to re-capture the robot.
Hatke has given us a heroine who is not a middle-class white person and who is in every way admirable. The little girl in his story is black; she wriggles out from a run-down camper and goes bravely exploring. She’s inquisitive, brave, and loves to build and repair machinery. She makes friends with an unfamiliar little robot and helps figure out a non-violent way to defeat the behemoth sent after them.
The book is also unbelievably cute without in any way detracting from the heroine’s fierceness. The robot is a rounded, stubby little fellow who has to be taught how to walk. They spend the time they are not running from the giant robot exploring, looking for puffballs and, in the girl’s case, building.
All of this is done primarily through pictures, making this a fantastic book for early readers who are given a story that does not talk down to them in any way. The progression is right to left, top to bottom, giving both an easy introduction to the comic book format and training in the way we read books.
Little Robot is an excellent book to give beginning readers. Older and younger readers may well enjoy it also.