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Ricky Ricotta's Mighty Robot (Book 1) Paperback – April 29, 2014
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From School Library Journal
Gr 1–3—Ricky Ricotta is a little guy who is always picked on. That is, until Dr. Stinky McNasty's plot to destroy the city by a giant, evil robot goes awry. The evil robot would rather be Ricky's friend than cause mass destruction. This reboot of the original title of the same name (Scholastic, 2000) includes all-new, full-color illustrations by Santat. Paired with Pilkey's minimal text, these images offer a new generation of readers a fun introduction to chapter books. The story includes Flip-O-Ramas (two-page flip book-style animations) that will make the story truly come alive. There are also several graphic novel-style pages that will attract hesitant readers. Newly independent readers and Pilkey fans alike will not be disappointed by this humorous ride.—Kris Hickey, Columbus Metropolitan Library, OH --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.
Poor little Ricky Ricotta—just a nerdy, bespectacled mouse with no friends. But when his dad says, “Someday something BIG will happen and you will find a friend,” he is right. One day, a giant robot, controlled by evil Dr. Stinky, attacks the city, but the robot has a change of heart when he sees the terrified townsmice. When Dr. Stinky punishes the robot for his disobedience, Ricky is the one to save him, and their friendship is cemented. Pilkey first published this series in 2000, but in preparation for new installments, Scholastic is rereleasing the stories with brand-new full-color illustrations on glossy pages from prolific artist Santat (Crankenstein, 2013). Aimed at a younger audience than the wildly popular Captain Underpants books, this series opener has all the classic Pilkey hallmarks: comic book panels, superhero action, and flip-o-rama, which here depicts the battle between Mighty Robot and the supersize class lizard infected with “Hate Potion #9” to enact Dr. Stinky’s revenge. Brace yourselves, there’s more on the way. HIGH-DEMAND BACKSTORY: Pilkey’s publisher is pulling out all the stops for this series. Expect to see Ricky Ricotta TV spots any day now. Grades K-3. --Sarah Hunter --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.
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If you are a fan of Captain Underpants then this book is a sure bet. In fact, I think it may be his best work yet in terms of plot development and amusing moments. My son laughed out loud SO many times and I have to admit I did, too!
There was a possible discrepancy between this book and the previous one. In the previous book, the time travel was stated as 30 years in the future (and the adult George and Harold were 39 3/4 and 40yo respectively) but in this book it was stated repeatedly as being forty years in the future. It did not seem to be a plot development issue, just a mistake. I went back and reread it to try to figure it out but I was left a little confused. If I am incorrect, please comment!
In any case, the book was amazing, and my son never would have noticed the 30years/40years thing on his own! Thanks Dav for another really funny, well put together book that encourages kids to be kids, as obnoxious and as loud and with all the potty humor that it entails. You outdid yourself on the Uranus jokes in this one, though the potty song in the last one was pretty hilarious to my seven year old, too. I am always amused at seeing him so amused. :) you keep making them and we will keep buying them, as we read them repeatedly. This one is no exception, and in fact I think it is one of your best. Thank you!
It could easily be argued Pilkey has an agenda in this book. Some of the humor, such as song titles from the 60's twisted into silly chapter headings, and his political humor, along with some advanced vocabulary and commentary on ADHD went above my son's head--there is no way a child would get that stuff. It was clearly there to amuse (or provoke? :)) the adult reading to the child. I felt like he acknowledged that he has a dual audience (as often parents read to their children in this 6-8yo age group), but since he is politically opinionated and quite liberal, many parents will not be entertained by his agenda (one easy example--he refers to GOPs as "grumpy old people." I'm sure Republicans will not be amused). To be fair, Pilkey has always had undertones of "speaking" (in a sense) to his parent audience throughout the series, so this is not strictly a new thing.
Pilkey also talks about ADHD. My son has ADHD, and he said at one point during the book, "that's me!" in an excited and proud way. I like that Pilkey was able to portray ADHD as something that has its upside, too, in that lots of kids who have ADHD are more creative and energetic.
The message that giving drugs or medicating for ADHD is a very bad choice is not explicitly stated, but it certainly is the underlying message of the book. I don't think kids would necessarily connect the real world drug Ritalin to the Pilkey make believe gas Rid-o-kid 2000 (the drug in the book that controls children) but it is an obvious enough message to the adult reader.
My son felt so strongly about how horrible that gas was. He actually punched the book and said "every kid has something to offer just the way they are." I don't think he's ever punched a book before--he was just SO into the story. On our second night reading it, he even came to bed fifteen minutes early and brushed his teeth without any fuss in order to carry on reading this book, as he could not wait to continue it. For an extremely energetic kid like my son to choose an early bedtime for a book is the highest possible praise. This book did not seem to have as many laugh out loud moments for him as compared to previous books in the series, but regardless, he was extremely engaged and passionate about reading it.
The other hot button issue in this book is the fact that when the boys travel forward 20 years in the future and meet their future selves, one of them is married to a man. I was really excited to see this in a mainstream children's book. For my kids, this was accepted with a matter of fact "of course, no big deal mom, why are you excited?" as I've made it a point to tell them from the time they were itty bitty that they could each choose to marry whatever man or woman they wanted. We've answered all the questions on how babies happen in gay marriages and what social prejudice is, and why the recent Supreme Court decision was necessary. For families who have not discussed these things, reading this book together could be the beginning of a conversation (if it was even noticed by the child or pointed out by the parent). I like the way Pilkey presented it--it just was, no big deal, just the way life is, no special mention made of it. It is introduced like this: "Soon, everyone had gathered together in Old George's studio. Old George, his wife, and their kids, Meena and Nik, sat on the couch, while Old Harold, his husband, and their twins, Owen and Kei, plopped down on the beanbag chair." There is a nicely illustrated picture of the scene. Then the story moves on. Kudos, Dav Pilkey. It was brave of you to do this, to take the stand that "this is what normal married life looks like." Parents who disagree will of course choose not to buy your book (and likely down vote this review into obscurity, but I'm okay with that, too.)
I expect that some more conservative families may argue children's books shouldn't get political, but the truth is, mainstream children's books get political all the time-- by excluding reality, not by including it. When families all look alike, all white and heterosexual and living in an expensive home as they are in so many childrens' books, it doesn't reflect the everyday truth of real kids in the real world. Pilkey chose to forge his own path, and it is only so worthy of note because he is among the first to do so in mainstream children's lit, which, to be honest, should surprise no one who has read the first 11 books of this series. He's just that kind of author--he makes the book he wants to make, even if some parents might not like it.
I'm sure many other young children's authors will follow suit in reflecting the world as it is in all its diversity, gay marriage and all, if not soon (I hope soon!) then inevitably in the years to come. Norms (and laws) are changing to reflect what is real for people in all their diversity, and I am so glad authors like Dav Pilkey are willing to choose to have these realities be reflected matter of factly in the stories they tell, without the story itself having anything to do with the subject of diversity. Thank you, Mr. Pilkey!