Tag Archives: robotics

Little Robot

Author/Illustrator: Ben Hatke

My rating: 4.5 of 5

A box tumbles out of a moving truck, only to be discovered by a little girl exploring outside. She opens to box to find a little robot, just the right size to be her friend. These two develop an understanding and a growing friendship, although like any friends they must work through their share of misunderstandings. All is not well, though, as those that made the little robot come searching for it–whether or not it’s willing to go.

The creator of the adorable Zita the Spacegirl has brought us another excellent children’s graphic novel in Little Robot. This is a perfect story for basically anyone; it’s charming, creative, simple, yet engaging. It would actually make a pretty solid easy-reader for children learning to read for themselves. Most of the text is reasonably simple–I actually love that in a few instances where a more difficult concept was being expressed, Hatke actually used a picture in the text bubble rather than trying to use too many words to explain or worse trying to oversimplify the idea. There’s a mild amount of peril, but the ending is happy and satisfying. The little girl in this story (who is never actually named) seems to only be about 5 or thereabouts, although she’s surprisingly precocious in some ways for that age. She’s got a fun personality. Also, points for making her not white and giving her a wrench to carry around and fix stuff. The art in this whole story is Hatke’s typical style–in other words, it’s fabulous. The colors, the lines, the textures, and the angles are all just perfect. Basically, I loved Little Robot and would highly recommend it to anyone of any age.

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Robot Dreams

Author/Illustrator: Sara Varonrobot dreams

My rating: 3.5 of 5

Dog brings home a build-your-own-robot kit and finds his new best friend–Robot. The two do everything together: library trips, movies, the beach. Well, the beach was a bit of a mistake. Or rather, the water was a mistake for Robot. He rusts up so he can’t move! Dog doesn’t know what to do, so after trying everything, he quietly slinks away, feeling guilty for leaving his friend. Gradually, Dog tries to move past the guilt and loneliness by making new friends . . . with mixed results. Meanwhile, Robot lies abandoned on the shore, daydreaming about all sorts of might-have-been’s and could-be’s. But maybe there’s hope for both of them yet.

I really enjoyed this cute graphic novel, Robot Dreams. The art is simple but bold, not especially beautiful, but oddly attractive and expressive nonetheless. It works well for the story. And the story is unexpected, to be sure. At first, it’s all happy and sweet–the kind of story you give an upbeat soundtrack with birds singing in the background. Then everything gets all sad and poignant–somehow heartwarming and heartbreaking at the same time. I love that the story resolution is at the same time unexpected (not at all the stereotypical happy ending I had figured would come) and cathartic; there’s a great message of healing and forgiveness there that I think is great for readers of all ages. And that’s something else that is great about this graphic novel–it really is appropriate and enjoyable for everyone from pretty young kids to adults.

 

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Operation Sherlock

operation sherlockAuthor: Bruce Coville

My rating: 4 of 5

The A. I. Gang, vol. 1

Wendy, Ray, Trip, Rachel, and Roger all find themselves dragged across the ocean to a new home on the island of Anza Bora–all because their parents are involved in some sort of super-secret artificial intelligence research project. Determined to make the best of a situation none of them are particularly happy about, the five children become friends and begin exploring what the island has to offer. But soon they discover that things just aren’t right. Bugs, explosions, and other unexplained events catch the gang’s attention–especially when they begin receiving threatening messages on their personal computers that ought to be un-hackable. There’s only one thing for it: they determine to put together their (considerable) intelligence and computer skills to create their own crime-solving A. I. in the interest of solving this mystery.

In terms of serialized middle-grade mysteries, Bruce Coville’s Operation Sherlock has to be pretty high on my list. While it follows the basic patterns you’ve seen in everything from The Mysterious Benedict Society to Nancy Drew and innumerable others, this particular book fails to get mired down in the way that many of this sort of book do. The plot manages to be typical of the style and yet fresh at the same time. The slightly cyberpunk setting adds a lot, being well-developed and yet not overly emphasized. I think the character creation is where Coville’s skills truly shine, though. He manages to craft a group of individuals who truly show developed, distinct characters without ever falling into stereotyped characters. I feel like his development of the gang is subtly done, and I really enjoyed the interactions between the kids. Nice dialogue as well, which helped the progression of the story a lot. I think for anyone who likes the genre, Operation Sherlock is a significantly above-average choice, and it’s sure to be a hit with anyone (like myself) who loves Bruce Coville’s writing in general. I’m looking forward to trying the second volume.

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Big Hero 6

Walt Disney StudiosBig Hero 6

Directed by Don Hall & Chris Williams/Produced by Roy Conli/Screenplay by Jordan Roberts, Dan Gerson, & Robert L. Baird/Music by Henry Jackman/Based on the graphic novel by Steven T. Seagle & Duncan Rouleau

My rating: 5 of 5

Fourteen-year-old Hiro Hamada has a great brain, but he’s not exactly motivated to put it to use . . . until some well-placed encouragement from his brother Tadashi and four of Tadashi’s “nerd friends” inspires him to join them at their college’s robotics program. Hiro seems set on a course for great success when the unthinkable happens: an accidental fire at the school kills his brother Tadashi and destroy’s Hiro’s robotics project as well. Overwhelmed with depression over his brother’s death, Hiro again finds himself completely unmotivated to do anything with his life. That is, until he accidentally activates Baymax, a nurse-robot that his brother had been working on. With Baymax, Hiro discovers that the fire at the school may not have been as accidental as it seemed–and so, Hiro, Baymax, and Tadashi’s four college friends team up to find the truth and bring justice where it’s due. True superhero style.

Big Hero 6 was one movie that I was actually excited to see from the time I first saw the previews, although it didn’t work out for me to see it until it came out on DVD. I wasn’t disappointed when I watched it either. Unlike many of Disney’s movies recently, I felt like this one came together extremely well. The characters were great; you could definitely tell that they were, well, based on stereotypes of sorts (probably because that worked better with their superhero transformations later), but they were also full of personality and individuality. Hiro himself is adorable in a punk sort of way . . . I think the first few minutes of the movie give a very good idea of his general character, but he also is someone who grows a lot during the story. (On that topic, the “hugging and learning” aspect of the story might be a bit much, but I guess we know it’s that kind of story going in to it.) Not that she shows up particularly much, but I really think Hiro and Tadashi’s aunt is an awesome character–I wish we saw more of her. I really appreciated the balance that was found in a lot of areas here: the combination of Japanese and American (especially in the architecture–wow), the meld of science and “superhero” tradition. It’s neat that this is based on an actual comic-book series (one I haven’t read, but it sounds interesting) by the same title . . . it sounds like the movie is almost something of an origin story from what I can tell. In any case, the use of science to explain/create the hero capabilities is fun. Also, bonus points for pretty art–I know CG has come incredibly far in just the past few years, and that’s not really even what I’m talking about–more like, the creators intentionally made pretty stuff (cloud patterns, incredible architecture, cool carp-kite wind machines, etc.) even when it wasn’t necessary. I appreciate that. So yeah, I would definitely recommend Big Hero 6 to anyone, say, elementary school and up who enjoys a solid, fun action movie with, yes, some hugging and learning mixed in.

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