I continue on my quest to find terrific picture books about robots, suitable for use in an early childhood classroom. I’m looking for an engaging story, eye-catching illustrations, and some aspect of plot or characterization that accurately illustrates concepts from a robotics, engineering or computer science curriculum. In my last blog post I sang the praises of a little 2003 reader called Me and My Robot, written by Tracey West and illustrated by Cindy Revell. This book is still my favorite, even after reading almost twenty additional titles. But I did find another good book that fits most of my requirements: the colorful Robots Slither by Ryan Ann Hunter and illustrated by Julia Gorton (2004, G.P. Putnam).
Robots Slither is a concept book, not a story book, but the primary text skips along with an engaging rhyme. “Robots slither, creep and crawl. Robots inch along the wall.” Each page also includes some secondary text describing specific examples of actual robots that fit the characteristics of each descriptive rhyme. For example, a real robot that can “creep and crawl” is the Dante II, a robot developed by the Robotics Institute at Carnegie Mellon to crawl into a volcano and collect data in an environment too dangerous for humans. The book is more than ten years old and many important advancements in robotics have been developed since Robots Slither was published, but the book does a nice job of covering the broad range of robot types and functions.
When reading this book with children, I recommend reading all the rhyming text first, to keep the rhythm and flow intact, and then going back to look at the illustrations more carefully and to read the sidebars and secondary text about the actual robots. This book might be especially interesting to children who enjoy playing with Hexbugs. Many of the robots in the picture book share characteristics with Hexbug toys and the book might spark some engaging conversations about the design elements that make a robot similar to living creatures, like bugs and snakes.
Here is a list of this recent batch of robot books I reviewed. Many are engaging and entertaining, but as far as I could tell, none of these books demonstrate actual robotics concepts related to engineering, mechanical design or computer science.
Baby Brains and Robomom by Simon James
Cookiebot! A Harry and Horsie Adventure by Katie Van Camp
If I Had a Robot by Dan Yaccarino
If I Had a Robot Dog by Andrea Baruffi
Lilliput 5357 by Stefan Czernecki
Mama Robot by Davide Call
My Robot (Green Light Reader) by Eve Bunting
Oh No! (Or How My Science Project Destroyed the World) by Marc Barnett
Rafa Was My Robot by Alexandra Dellevoet
Robot by Jon Scieszka
Robot Dog by Mark Oliver
Snowbots by Aaron Reynolds
The Trouble with Sisters and Robots by Steve Gritton
Wendel’s Workshop by Chris Riddell
Wodney Wat’s Wobot by Helen Lester