You might be saying to yourself, “Old Betsy Bird is doing quite a few cover reveals these days — is she phoning it in?” To which I would reply, “But today’s it’s the frigging sequel to Peter Brown’s The Wild Robot!!! I was gonna say no to that? I’m not made of stone!” Which isn’t actually an answer to the critique, but at least explains that when it comes to covers of books that I’m really and truly looking forward to, I will happily reveal them with a song in my heart and a spring in my step.
As you may recall, in The Wild Robot, we met the robot Roz. She is created for one purpose, but when her packing crate crashes on a wild island devoid of people she finds, very quickly, that she must adapt or die. I’ve been thinking a lot about this book recently and what it could mean to kids today. At the time that I reviewed it (June 3, 2016) I said the following:
“There are far fewer robot middle grade books out there than you might expect. This is probably because, as a general rule, robots fall into the Data from Star Trek trap. Their sole purpose in any narrative is to explain what it is to be human. You see this all the time in pop culture, so it stands to reason you’d see it a bit in children’s books too. Never you mind that a cool robot is basically a kid’s dream companion. Take away the kid, put the robot on its own, and you have yourself some philosophy lite. Maybe that’s why I liked Peter Brown’s The Wild Robot as much as I did. The heroine of this book is mechanical but she’s not wrestling with the question of what it means to feel emotions or any of that. She’s a bit more interested in survival and then, after a bit of time, connection.”
Now I think I might have been a bit off the mark. Not about the role robots play in middle grade novels, but about what Roz might mean to child readers. It isn’t just about survival and connection. It’s about realizing that the world can prepare you for one purpose and one purpose alone, but you don’t have to blindly accept that role. You can be more than people think you can be. And right now, here in 2017, that resonates with me.
So let’s lift a glass to the sequel to that book, on shelves October 3rd. And what a cover it is:
Thanks to Victoria Stapleton and the folks at Little, Brown for the reveal.
By the way, before the reviews come out for this new one, I want to declare a moratorium on anyone out there declaring this to be “Westworld for kids”. That is all.