Review by Rachel Heston Davis
ROBOT DREAMS joins such graphic novels as MAUS and OWLY in telling a very human story through the eyes of animals. Like OWLY, the plotline unfolds in simple illustrations without dialogue: Dog takes his friend Robot to the beach, where Robot rusts and gets stuck lying on the sand. With no way to get Robot moving again, Dog abandons him, and both spend the next year missing each other.
At first glance, ROBOT DREAMS’ straightforward action and clean-cut cartoon style appear simplistic. Don’t be fooled; beneath the simplicity lies a poignant message about the fragile nature of friendship in our increasingly isolated society. Both Dog and Robot spend the book lonely, mirroring the two categories of social disconnect most of us fall under; the lonely extrovert or the lonely introvert.
Dog is the lonely extrovert who navigates a series of other friendships but finds them shallow and unsatisfying. Some friendships end because of incompatibility in lifestyle, such as the ducks who travel south in winter. Some end with the natural passage of time, like the snowman who melts come spring. And some acquaintances, like Dog and Snowman’s mutual friend Penguin, lose interest in Dog once the mutual friend leaves the picture.
Robot, meanwhile, lies on the beach and imagines escaping to find new pals. As a lonely introvert, he dreams of finding friends but has no real-life contact with others. On the rare occasion when someone does cross his path, the experience ends in disappointment. When rabbits come ashore in a leaky boat, Robot expects help; in a striking moment of cruelty, the rabbits chop off his leg to patch their boat and then leave. When a mother bird makes her nest in the crook of Robot’s arm, he grows attached to her little family. But they fly away, leaving him with a literal empty nest.
The book offers hopeful resolution for both characters, but it’s no fairy tale ending. ROBOT DREAMS serves as a cautionary tale for readers: cherish your close friends, because close friends are hard to come by.
This graphic novel is a winner for all ages. While the message will interest adults, young children will be drawn to the adorable cartoon style, easy plotline, and animal characters.