cover image Little Robot Alone

Little Robot Alone

Patricia MacLachlan and Emily MacLachlan Charest, illus. by Matt Phelan. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, $17.99 (40p) ISBN 978-0-544-44280-1

Little Robot has a head made from a toaster with a lightbulb stuck in it, a rotund body with riveted orange pants, and tractor treads for feet. He leads an idyllic life in a cottage by the pond, and he’s developed satisfying little rituals to fill his days, such as singing a breakfast song: “Oats with oozy oil are yummy/ slipping slowly down my tummy.” But he’s lonely. Then one day, the lightbulb literally goes off: he can make himself a friend. The resulting robot pet dog is every bit as cute as Little Robot himself; when Little Robot presses the button on the dog’s nose, it leans over and licks Little Robot “on his smooth metal cheek.” And that’s pretty much the entire narrative arc—MacLachlan and Charest (Cat Talk) don’t take their characters on an adventure or portray a moment of missed emotional signals. It shouldn’t be enough—and yet it is. Phelan’s gauzy, sunny watercolor-and-pencil drawings set a cheery, energetic mood, and ingenious Little Robot is instantly winning—surprisingly expressive, sweet but never cloying, and in service to a higher and very relatable purpose. Ages 4-7. [em](June) [/em]