Unplugged (Steve Antony)


Hello, friends! Our book today is Unplugged by Steve Antony, a sweet story about balancing screen time with the real world.

A little robot named Blip loves being plugged into her computer. There’s so much to do and see inside her magic machine: she can play games, learn things, explore far off places, and much more. That is, until the day a power outage and a trip down her stairs rolls her, quite unexpectedly, out into the real world. Quickly taken under wing by a friendly duck, fawn, and bunny, the little robot is fascinated to find that the real world also holds so many wonderful things, including fresh new ways to learn, play, and explore. Having spent the day trying all manner of new things, Blip eventually finds her way back home. She sadly parts ways with her new friends and heads back upstairs to plug in. But now, her virtual world seems a little flat and gray; perhaps Blip has learned that there’s more to life than her computer screen…

Clever and sweet. Antony’s work is very popular in our house (his Mr. Panda series is one of JJ’s all-time favorites), and it’s easy to see why: the art is simple, charming, and witty; his stories are succinct yet fun, and yet always have a clear message to discuss with readers. This one, about the importance of balancing screen time with real-world interactions, is a valuable one right now. The story and art keep the message impactful yet brief; Antony cleverly uses monochrome colors to show Blip’s digital life, then contrasts this with classic storybook pastels in her adventures outside. That, along with a wonderful set of spreads that juxtaposes individual digital vs. real world activities, does as much to tell the story as the text does. It keeps the length of the story extremely manageable, and allows for a jumping off point for discussions between kids and their caregivers. JJ really enjoyed little Blip, and so did I. A smart modern parable, and we recommend it: Baby Bookworm approved!

Robot In Love (T. L. McBeth)

Hello, friends! Our book today is Robot In Love by T. L. McBeth, an adorably offbeat love story.

Robot starts every day the same: unplug himself from the wall, eat some bread, leave the house. But today is no ordinary day – today is the day he sees HER. She’s shiny, very quiet, and their connection is simply electric. Robot spends the next few days mooning over his new love, even spending a night carefully constructing her a bouquet of flowers from spare metal parts. But when he arrives at their usual meeting spot to present them to her – she’s not there! Broken-hearted, Robot searches everywhere for his lost love, to no avail. Will he ever be reunited with the object of his affection?

This was a fun twist on the classic he-meets-she that’s full of clever, kid-friendly comedy. While both the narration and dialogue are from Robot’s perspective, the narration is widely kept conversational while the dialogue is peppered with fun-to-read robot “language”: “does not compute!”, “error”, etc. The story is harmless fun, a tale of love that’s frivolous enough to allow the comedy to take the lead, but never so flippant that it appears mocking. The minimalist art is befitting the mechanical main character, and the palette of red, black, white, and mixtures thereof is bright and bold. The length was great, and JJ loved the robot, so this one is definitely Baby Bookworm approved.

(Note: A copy of this book was provided to The Baby Bookworm by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.)

Love, Z (Jessie Sima)

Hello, friends! Our book today is Love, Z by Jessie Sima!

Little robot Z is out exploring when he finds a bottle with a note inside. Most of the writing is illegible, but he can read the signature: “Love, Beatrice”. When his fellow robots tuck him in for the night, he asks what the meaning of the word “love” is, but the robots simply reply “DOES NOT COMPUTE”. Being the curious robot he is, Z sets off on a quest to find his answer, traveling on a boat with a stalwart captain (who is also a cat). Z meets new friends as he travels – a crow, a baker, some schoolchildren – who all attempt to explain love to him in their own ways, but Z doesn’t understand. At last, Z and the captain happen upon an island, a little house… and Beatrice herself inside. Z asks the woman who inspired his quest, and after some thought, she replies that love is warm, and cozy, and safe, but that one doesn’t really know it until they feel it. Z thinks about this, wondering if he’ll ever truly understand. But when some surprise visitors burst in, Z will find that he may know more about love than he ever realized.

Fantastic. This is a sweet fable with some memorable details, a great message, and an adorable main character. Showing that love comes in many forms and touches us in many ways, the art then takes time to illustrate this in beautiful, subtle ways: a father teaching his daughter to bake, two young women falling in love, all the little things (like puppies and garden gnomes) that bring us joy, and so on. It’s an exploration of what we love and how we love that has a tone of childlike innocence, and a perfect payoff (a clever visual Easter Egg, teased early on and paid off in the story’s climax, warmed my heart). Sims has a knack for touching and relatable tales, and this one was a joy. The length was great, JJ loved it, and it’s Baby Bookworm approved!

(Note: A copy of this book was provided to The Baby Bookworm by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.)

Curiosity: The Story Of A Mars Rover (Markus Motum)

Hello, friends! Our book today is Curiosity: The Story Of A Mars Rover by Markus Motum, a fun- and fact-filled look at the titular robot.

All alone on Mars, Earth’s closest planetary neighbor, there is a robot named Curiosity, roaming the planet’s surface and conducting experiments on what it finds. Told from the intrepid bot’s point of view, the reader is given a brief idea of why Curiosity is there: because human beings always want to learn more about the universe around them. Following in the bootprints of Neil Armstrong and the other men and robots that came before it, Curiosity was built for exploration and data acquisition on Mars, and with the ability to conduct experiments and send data back to Earth. This was a feat of years of research, design, engineering, and astronautics, and culminated in Curiosity’s groundbreaking voyage and landing on Mars. Now the robot is exploring the far-off planet, and leaving treadmarks where it goes – hopefully someday, footprints with join them.

Fascinating! I was so impressed by how jam-packed with information this was, from the main narrative to fun facts scattered throughout to wonderful appendix. Even art is opportunity for more learning, such as providing a USA map with labeled states or a solar system with planets’ names during sections covering the robot’s travels. The text is highly informative, yet having it told in Curiosity’s voice keeps it from being too dry. The space-age inspired art is perfect, keeping things simple yet engaging and providing great visual aids for the facts. It is a bit on the lengthy side, though – JJ started to get a bit squirmy by the end – and would probably be better saved for slightly older bookworms. But overall, it’s an enlightening and inspirational look at a modern marvel, and it’s Baby Bookworm approved!

Little Bot And Sparrow (Jake Parker)

Hello, everyone! Today, we read Little Bot And Sparrow by Jake Parker, a bittersweet tale about how friendship stays with us long after we say goodbye.

One spring, Little Bot is thrown out with the garbage. Having nothing to do and no one to serve, he sits and waits – inadvertently becoming a perfect perch for some sparrows. One kindly sparrow takes Little Bot under-wing, introducing him to her friends, playing outside, and teaching him how to be safe in the forest. As autumn rolls around, Sparrow sadly tells Little Bot that she must leave him soon, so they endeavor to cherish their remaining days together. And when winter comes, Sparrow sadly leaves her friend. Little Bot misses his first and best friend, but he treasures the memories of everything she taught him, and all the good times they shared.

To be honest, when I picked this book, I was not expecting the message to be what it was, but that’s not a bad thing. The story is full of joy and humor, but also tinged with a bit of sadness – not unlike many first friendships. So in splitting the friends up at the end, the story sends a candid message about what friendship must sometimes be: someone comes into your life, teaches and helps you, and is a wonderful friend, but sometimes you’ll also have to say goodbye. It’s honest, and could definitely help a child who is in the process of losing a friendship (as much as I moved around as a kid, I probably could have used a book like this). The art is absolutely lovely, hilarious and heartbreaking in turns, and the length is perfect for baby bookworms. JJ really enjoyed it, and I found it surprisingly moving. This is a great, honest, and touching parable about friendship, and we highly recommend giving it a read. Baby Bookworm approved!