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What is it
‘The Wild Robot’ and its sequel ‘The Wild Robot Escapes’ is a very charming 2-part (so far) series about a sentient robot surviving in the wilderness, written and illustrated by Peter Brown.
Who is it for
The official website gives the recommended ages of 8 to 11, but every one of us enjoyed the audio book, even the 4-year-old. The books are chapter books, with occasional (wonderful) illustrations, so young readers who are used to a lot of pictures won’t want to read it. But the story is deep enough that adults and older children would enjoy it.
What Kids Like
It has robots, and fighting, and talking animals, but also feels like a “grown-up” story in some ways. Characters suffer and get distressed. Some characters die. This is all handled very well, and is not upsetting to kids.
What Parents Like
The story is surprisingly rich and deep for a book aimed at children. While the story on the surface may seem simple and childish, the themes of identity and purpose and community are thought-provoking.
The audiobooks were rare examples of stories that both adults and kids were eager to continue listening to.
What the Critics Think
4.1/5 on Goodreads, 4.9/5 on Barnes & Noble, 4/5 on Common Sense Media, and 96% on Google.
The relatively lower Goodreads score was a surprise to me, but I think some of their readers aren’t into robots.
Who Made it
The books were written and illustrated by Peter Brown, known for simpler books including “The Curious Garden”, “Children Make Terrible Pets”, and “Mr. Tiger Goes Wild”.
The audio books were read by Kate Atwater / Kathleen McInerney (I think it’s the same person, but am not sure). The audio books are excellent for long car trips.
Peter Brown has a fairly detailed write-up of the process of creating the book. Interesting to aspiring writers or anyone curious about the process.
"However, I wanted to tell a different kind of robot story. I wanted to tell the story of a robot who finds harmony in the last place you’d expect. I wanted to tell a robot nature story."
"For this to truly be a “robot nature story” Roz would need to encounter a wide variety of natural elements. And the story would have to take place in the future to explain the existence of intelligent robots. I imagined how the wilderness might look in a few hundred years, and two things occurred to me: 1) because of climate change and rising sea levels, animals from far and wide might eventually be forced together as they all seek higher ground, and 2) some of that higher ground might become completely surrounded by water, forming new islands. With that in mind, I set the story far in the future, on a rugged northern island that was formed by rising seas, and that had a diverse array of weather and flora and fauna."
"The Wild Robot is the story of Rozzum unit 7134, a robot who wakes up for the very first time to find that she’s alone on a remote, wild island. Roz doesn’t know how she got there, or where she came from: she only knows that she wants to stay alive. And by robotically studying her environment she learns everything she needs to know. She learns how to move through the wilderness, how to avoid danger, she even learns how to communicate with the animals. But the most important lesson Roz learns is that kindness can be a survival skill. And she uses kindness to develop friends and a family and a peaceful life for herself. Until her mysterious past catches up with her.
It took eight years, but I finally found an answer to the question that led me down this path. What would an intelligent robot do in the wilderness? She’d make the wilderness her home."
Where Can I Get it
You can read a preview here although it does not include the illustrations.
The books and audio books are everywhere.