The Wild Robot by Peter Brown
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Peter Brown sets the tone early in his young MG debut THE WILD ROBOT: Nature doesn’t play nice. In fact, it doesn’t play at all. Nature just is.
A hurricane sinks a cargo ship carrying five hundred crated robots. Most sink to the bottom of the sea. Of the five remaining, only one crate lands safely on the shore of a remote island. The other four are dashed onto the rocks, their contents shattered and strewn about as playthings for otters. Roz, the titular wild robot, survives. What follows is a curious mixture of scientific investigation, Disney fairy tale, and cautionary story of a distant (or not so distant) climate-changed future.
When Roz first emerges on the island, she is a blank slate. She doesn’t know where she is, how she got there, or why. She does know one thing: She must adapt to life on her remote island or she will not survive. This is easily my favorite theme of THE WILD ROBOT. Roz is confronted with various threats to her existence and, through observation and investigation of the animals around her, she learns how to overcome the threats. Her matter-of-fact way of solving problems charmed me right away. The robot behaves like a robot and the animals she watches behave like animals.
I will admit to being less sold on what comes next, when Roz learns the language of the animals and begins to speak with them. From that point, the animals, though still retaining some of their true animal nature, began to act more like anthropomorphic Disney characters than the wild creatures Roz observed at the beginning. And I should note that, while this feature turned me off the story, it thoroughly energized my daughters who absolutely loved this turn of events.
And by the end, when the whole island must work together to defeat problems both natural and unnatural, even I was rooting for them.