Monday, February 15, 2016

Book Review: The Laziest Robot in Zone One

(Retrieved from Blogjob, where its tags were children’s bookI Can Read picture bookspicture bookscience fiction for childrensimple storybooks with short chaptersstories about robots.)

A Fair Trade Book
Title: The Laziest Robot in Zone One
Of course the book cover has a cuter, more cartoonlike drawing than that...however, if you click on that computer-generated graphic, you can buy the book and see the drawings for yourself.
Authors: Lillian and Phoebe Hoban
Lillian Hoban's memorial page: https://www.lillianhoban.com/
Phoebe Hoban's web page: https://www.phoebehoban.com/
Date: 1983
Publisher: Harper & Row
ISBN: 0-06-022352-9
Length: 64 pages
Illustrations: drawings by Lillian Hoban
Quote: “You have not done your homework, or weeded the space garden, or walked the dog...Sometimes I think you are the laziest robot in Zone One.”
In a short-lived series of “I Can Read” books, the artist who drew Frances (of A Baby Sister for Frances fame) tried to make robots into lovable substitutes-for-talking-directly-about-children, just like the baby badgers, raccoons, and skunks in the Frances Books. In this story, a child robot tries to get other child robots to search for his stray dog robot. In order to preserve some suspense, this review will not describe how the child robots earn praise from the mommy robot.
Is this really all that much sillier than animals, who in real life have one litter per year and separate from the first litter before starting the next one, cast as school-aged children with baby sisters or brothers? It’s become a convention in picture books that any creature can be described as if it were a child, in order to slip in a message about how children ought to behave. Why not robots? It would be easier, in real life, to program robots to act out all those human family dramas than to train animals to do it.
I have to admit that the concept doesn’t thrill me. I like Hoban’s anthropomorphic animals better than her anthropomorphic robots. However, some beginning readers were amused by Hoban's robots; some people are still buying and selling these books as nostalgia items and collection pieces, too. 
Phoebe Hoban is still alive, so The Laziest Robot in Zone One is a Fair Trade Book. If you send $5 per copy + $5 per package + $1 per online payment to either address at the very bottom of the screen (e-mail salolianigodagewi for further instructions, or send a postal money order to Box 322) for a total of $10 (or $11) per book, I'll send 10%, or $1, to Hoban or a charity of her choice. You could fit at least one, probably half a dozen, other books into the package with this slim little picture book; the way that works is that each living author (or his or her charity) gets 10% of the total price for his or her book, even though you pay only one shipping charge. (Less profit for me, but I don't mind, I'm just glad to have to make only one trip to the post office.)