Maya and the Robot

Penguin/Kokila. Jul. 2021. 224p. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9781984814630.
Gr 3-7–Maya, who is Black, can’t wait to start fifth grade; she loves school and learning, and spending time with her friends. But everything shifts when she finds out besties MJ and Jada won’t be in strict Ms. Rodriguez’s class with her. They were transferred to Ms. Montgomery’s, the super cool teacher who plays bass guitar and even does science experiments in her classroom. Things only get worse from there; Maya is in class with her bully, and feels too intimidated to correct Ms. Rodriguez about her name. Her first week of school is so unbearably lonely that Maya decides to create the perfect new friend—a robot. The robot that convenience store owner Mr. Mac had half-finished in his back room, his late son Christopher’s pet project that never got finished. But Maya finds the perfect energy source, and suddenly she has Ralph; someone to talk to, to teach, someone to do chores and help her mom out—and most importantly, a companion. Even as Maya continues to miss her friends and struggle socially in school, everything Ralph-related is smooth sailing—until he is sabotaged at her school’s big science fair. Maya is a lovable, creative kid who readers will be rooting for from the start. Ewing imbues her with a curious, introspective spirit; Maya’s astute yet age-appropriate descriptions of her feelings may help young readers become more attuned to their own. There is a strong subtext of community care and support as Maya fondly describes her diverse neighborhood, full of people of various skin tones and ethnicities. This sweet story of a shy girl adjusting to new circumstances also shows her researching unfamiliar terms, experimenting, and asking big questions, all necessary skills for scientists. And perhaps the most important skill of all: collaboration, as Maya works with Christopher’s notebook to bring his vision to life. Tweens will encounter potentially new STEM vocabulary and concepts like prototype, actuator, and bioinspiration. Almeda’s buoyant black-and-white art breathes life into an already lively cast and plot.
VERDICT A heartfelt title that seamlessly brings tech and creativity to a tween audience with delightful characters and gentle humor. Highly recommended for young fiction collections.

Be the first reader to comment.

Comment Policy:
  • Be respectful, and do not attack the author, people mentioned in the article, or other commenters. Take on the idea, not the messenger.
  • Don't use obscene, profane, or vulgar language.
  • Stay on point. Comments that stray from the topic at hand may be deleted.
  • Comments may be republished in print, online, or other forms of media.
  • If you see something objectionable, please let us know. Once a comment has been flagged, a staff member will investigate.



We are currently offering this content for free. Sign up now to activate your personal profile, where you can save articles for future viewing