Little wonder Sara Varon’s Robot Dreams is on everyone’s recommendation list for Graphic Novels for Kids. A wordless comic, Robot Dreams includes the youngest audience without alienating the older ages. Couple expressive wordless frames with a soft friendly color palette and cartoonish animal figures and you have an easy sell for the elementary set. And maybe even older. Compound all of this with a subject that seems to matter to everyone—friendship—and how can anyone resist this read?! Even non-comic readers will find the quick 208 pages (cover to cover*) a sweet sip of story.
Richly endearing and full of surprises, Robot Dreams follows an ill-fated friendship between a dog and robot. After a Labor Day jaunt to the beach leaves Robot rusty and immobilized in the sand, Dog, unsure what to do, abandons him. As the seasons pass, Dog tries to replace his friend, making and losing a series of new ones, from a melting snowman to epicurean anteaters. Meanwhile, Robot passes his time daydreaming, escaping to better places… Through interwoven journeys, the two characters long to recover from their day at the beach.
Although its adorable characters and playful charm will win over young readers, Robot Dreams speaks universally to the fragile nature of friendship, loss, and redemption. ~dust jacket.
Many reviews read that dog “must” or was “obliged” to leave the robot there. The bitter truth was that the dog abandoned him, and the coming back was too late. While a reader might not linger over the frames, Varon redirects their time toward mulling the friendships she renders. The “simplicity” of the artwork counterbalances the complexity of its subject matter. Robot Dreams is hardly intimidating–which makes it brilliant in its medium and its theme. This is not a comic to underestimate.The comic feels rather harmless starting out. I mentioned the cartoon figure, the friendly colors. One expects things to come around in the end, some (not-really-) miraculous reunion between dog and robot, some apologies… “That was kind of sad. Why did you give me a sad book?” was Natalya’s (10 3/4) response this morning. It is sad, refreshingly sad, and quite perfect. A story about a friendship that is vulnerable to the elements and to the passing of time is quite perfect for any age, but incredibly important to grade-school-aged children.
* the story does start immediately, a quiet cinematic beginning. This book is a good intro to reading comics in novel form. **Varon’s cues are quite friendly. wavy bordered frames=dreams; hard-lines=reality. A subtle but lovely moment on pg 100, Robot “snaps” the frame in a dream.
Robot Dreams by Sara Varon
First Second books, 2007.
208 pages, tradepaper.
Chris’ excellent (as always) review @ “Graphic Classroom”
Sara Varon’s site.