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Robot Dreams Paperback – August 7, 2007
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From School Library Journal
Starred Review. Grade 3 Up—Dog wants a friend. Dog builds a robot. The two go to the library to get movies, and they make popcorn. They go to the beach, and the dog encourages the robot to play with him in the water. Robot is unable to move afterward because he has rusted stiff, and the dog finally leaves him there on his blanket on the sand. Seasons pass, and both Robot and Dog reflect on what happened, and both are changed because of this experience. The canine goes through a series of friendships that are unfulfilling in different ways: a duck goes south for the winter, a snowman melts, and the anteaters expect him to share their lunches. Meanwhile, the robot is lying on the beach, immobile but awake. He dreams of being rescued, of making new friends, of reuniting with Dog, of never having entered the water in the first place. While he dreams, his body is covered by sand and snow, is used for parts by scavengers, and even serves as a nesting place for a bird. This almost wordless (and dialogue-free) graphic novel is by turns funny and poignant. The cartoon artwork is clear and easy to understand. Varon uses a muted palette of earth tones with great skill. This book is like those board games that can be appreciated by anyone from 8 to 80. It is a quick read, but it will stay with readers long after they put it down.—Andrea Lipinski, New York Public Library
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*Starred Review* In this nearly wordless graphic novel, Dog's desire for a companion is satisfied the day Robot arrives by mail. Dog assembles Robot, and their adventure begins. After visiting the library, watching movies, and eating popcorn, the companions end up at the dog beach. Robot is hesitant to frolic in the waves at first, but after a short pause, he dives right in. The result is unfortunatea rusty, immobile Robot. Unsure of what to do for his friend, remorseful Dog abandons Robot on the sand to dream of what might have been (depicted first in brown tonal artwork as opposed to the color used to designate actions in real time) had things turned out differently. While Robot is used and abused, and eventually disposed of in a scrap yard, Dog agonizes over his companion, then begins searching for a new one with mixed, sometimes comic results. Varon's drawing style is uncomplicated, and her colors are clean and refreshing. Although her story line seems equally simple, it is invested with true emotion. Her masterful depiction of Dog's struggles with guilt and Robot's dreams of freedom effectively pulls readers into this journey of friendship, loss, self-discovery, and moving forward. Use this as Exhibit A to prove that graphic novels can pack an emotional punch equal to some of the best youth fiction. King, Kevin
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Top Customer Reviews
On the surface it's a story about a dog & his robot friend, filled with expressive faces & often funny situations. But it's far more than that, heading into bittersweet, thoughtful territory that explores the nature of friendship. Both Dog & Robot grow quite a bit by the time we reach the final pages, and they're both better for it. It's a truly sweet story, without ever becoming maudlin or cloying.
Sometimes I despair about the condition of the modern world ... then a small jewel like this comes along, reassuring me that there's more than bad news to life. A perfect book for any child ... but don't hesitate to buy a copy for yourself!
A dog purchases a robot kit so that he might have a friend to hang out with. The robot, a mellow type, enjoys hanging out with the dog, eating popcorn, watching movies, and going to the library. A trip to the beach, however, turns out to be a less than stellar idea when the robot goes swimming only to rust up and find that it can no longer move. The dog goes home for the night, intending to take the robot along later. Unfortunately, the beach is closed the next day and the poor robot is stuck on the sand, dreaming of things both good and bad. As the months go by, both robot and dog have their own small adventures, real and unreal. By the end, however, they each find new and separate companions. The last image in the book is of the robot seeing the dog with another robot, and understanding that this is a case when you've just got to let the person you love go.
You get certain ideas about a book when you look at it. Reading about the concept and glancing at the cover, I had the vague idea that the title would be a series of small adventures shared by the dog and the robot. So when the robot seized up 18 pages into the narrative and was abandoned by his companion (with more than 150 pages to go) I admit that I was a little shocked. Out the window go all my assumptions about the story. Though it's difficult to call it "writing" without having any words to direct you to, Varon's grasp of what makes a good narrative serves her very well here. It doesn't hurt matters any that I also love Varon's style. She's one of those deceptively simple artists. You feel a real and solid attachment to the creatures she's created, no matter how odd they may seem. There's also a real emotional arc to the tale. For example the robot at one point dreams of the betrayal it would feel if the dog found a new robot to hang out with (as it does later in the story). The dog, for its part, finds a variety of different friends during its travels. Birds. Anteaters. A snowman that comes to such a subtle end that it makes Raymond Briggs look like a murderer in comparison.
Varon spots her book with little shout-outs to her various interests and inspirations. Canny readers will notice that near the end the robot and its raccoon friend are reading books like The Rabbi's Cat, by Joann Sfar. I was intrigued by this mention of a fellow graphic novelist. Yet as my husband was quick to point out, Varon is rather similar to Sfar in that her stories are about extraordinary creatures doing relatively mundane things. Of course, my husband also says that this book is akin to The Giving Tree, had the tree found someone new to love it instead of that nasty boy. I couldn't disagree more, but I thought I'd mention it here, just in case you want to see for yourself whether or not it's true.
By and large, "Robot Dreams" is that rare combination of the sweet and the emotionally resonant. To me, this is basically a story about friendship, love, and how to move on when your heart's been broken. It just happens to also be wrapped up in a very innocent tale of a dog and his robot. Undoubtedly this will fly right under the radar of a lot of people who will miss the serious thread lurking beneath the pretty packaging. It's no easy task to produce a narrative sequence without a single spoken word. Harder still to drill home a heart's journey. Varon, then, is one to watch out for. A weirdly magnificent tale.
About the Dog, You don't bring a friend to life (heavy stuff) and then abandon them paralyzed on a beach in a time of need. Also you don't stop trying to save them because of a "no trespassing" sign. It bugged me the dog didn't try harder, I kept wondering why he didn't keep going back. Determination was totally overlooked, imagine if a parent left a child helpless on the beach because they couldn't lift them, not likely. It was obvious the dogs lack of ambition was necessary to facilitate the ending.
About the Robot, he's a good sport, but in the end should have let the dog know he was still alive and well. Humming the music wasn't enough, I'd hate to find out someone close I thought was dead was still alive and didn't tell me. For any of this to make sense, some sort of actual reunion/reconciliation needed to occur.
Visually it's nice, but it's hard to imagine anyone would act so passively in somewhat dire circumstances.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
For having no words, it elicits a stunning amount of emotion from the reader...Read more