Ages 7 and up
By Sara Varon
Though I have categorized this book for ages seven and up, I happen to know at least one three year old who requests this book often. Because Robot Dreams is nearly wordless (and completely without dialogue), children and adults alike can create their own dialogue, their own narrative.
The story takes place over the course of one year and is broken up by month, so parents reading to children can treat it as a chapter book and break it up over several sessions. Sharing a wordless book with a child can be an excellent opportunity to hear their perspective. How do they interpret the action in the art? How does that compare to what the adult sees? Every time a wordless book is opened a new story can be told, because there are no words to limit the narrator.
A tale of friendships—some are fleeting, others long lasting—Robot Dreams is funny, and sometimes heart breaking. Varon’s characters are expressive and appealing. Her art is clean and uncluttered and her palette is muted yet colorful. The complete package makes for a charming and heartwarming book.
This first page contains one panel; a dog is dropping an envelope into a mailbox. In the next spread a package is delivered and the, now happy, Dog begins assembling a robot. Robot seems to share Dog’s interests and the two become fast friends.
Sadly, a trip to the beach proves tragic. Dog convinces Robot to play with him in the water, which causes Robot to seize up. The beach is closing and Dog must abandon his friend; Robot cannot move and Dog cannot carry him. The disheartened Dog walks off.
As Robot lies on the beach, he dreams of his day with Dog. In the dream version, Robot passes on the swim and instead reads on the beach while Dog frolics in the waves. Back home Dog dreams of his friend alone on the beach. Dog goes to the library and checks out a robot repair manual. He then heads back to the beach to rescue his friend, but the beach is closed for the season.
Despite the setbacks with Robot, Dog is determined to make new friends. While flying a kite in the park he meets a helpful duck. The two have some great times together but Duck and his family soon fly south for the winter, leaving Dog alone again. Then he befriends a pair of anteaters, but they clearly do not share the same interests.
As winter arrives Dog decides to make a friend out of snow. Dog and Snowman enjoy some outdoor activities but Snowman doesn’t survive the warming spring temperatures. All the while, Dog thinks of his old friend Robot.
Back on the beach, the dispirited Robot loses a leg to some seafaring bunnies needing to repair their boat. He has dreams of escaping the beach, only to find a happy Dog who has moved on without him. He dreams of being picked up by a seagull, and dropped onto a fluffy cloud, and riding a snowflake back down to the beach.
Robot dreams of leaving the beach, of making new friends. Come spring, Robot is discovered by a beachcomber and is turned in for cash at scrap yard. A raccoon working to repair a radio purchases Robot’s remaining parts.
Dog returns to the re-opened beach to rescue his old friend, but it’s too late. After much searching he finds only the part of Robot’s leg that was discarded by the bunnies. The dejected Dog decides to build another robot. This time things will be different. When the two friends head to the beach together, Dog prevents another tragedy by making sure his new friend remains on the sand.
In the final few spreads Robot, now part radio, spots Dog outside walking with his new robot friend. Robot is happy in his new home but sentimental, or maybe sad, about seeing his former friend. He watches the happy pair walk on, raises his antennae, and turns on his radio to share his music.
The final, single paneled page shows Dog happily whistling the tune that Robot has shared.
Robot Dreams is an amazing tale of friendship and loss, of mistakes and regrets, and of letting go and moving on.