Author Ame Dyckman brilliantly exploits both the comic and poignant potential of this situation in her new picture book Boy + Bot, about a little boy and his robot friend. Each views the other as a perfect equal, so when things go wrong–a battery accidentally switched off, or a tired body at the end of the day–naturally, they try to fix the problem in their own way. When Bot stops responding, it must be because he is sick, so Boy administers applesauce, stories and a blanket. When Boy won’t answer, Bot decides that oil, an instruction manual and spare batteries will fix him. Fortunately, indulgent parents (and inventor) are there to prevent mishaps and approve of play dates.
Dan Yaccarino’s illustrations provide a bright complement to the cheerful text. Some pages are laid out in panels, each one showing a different activity the two friends enjoy together. The backgrounds provide just enough detail to give a sense of place, either in the little boy’s house or the inventor’s castle, but the reader can fill in plenty of other information on their own. Yaccarino’s background as an animator is clearly evident, and the energy of his simple shapes and clear expressions help the reader understand the story and sympathize with the characters. This is the perfect book for a small child who loves robots or for anyone looking for a sweet story of friendship. Better yet, pair it with A Home for Bird by Philip C. Stead, another story about friends whose differences don’t get in the way of their efforts to help each other. – Cecilia
Boy + Bot, by Ame Dyckman, illustrated by Dan Yaccarino; Knopf Books for Young Readers, $16.99, ages 3-6