Monkey & Robot

illus. by author. 64p. S & S/Atheneum/Richard Jackson Bks. 2013. Tr $12.99. ISBN 978-1-4424-2978-9; ebook $9.99. ISBN 978-1-4424-3060-0. LC 2012003044.
Gr 1–3—On a spread before the title page, Monkey and Robot are pictured floating in a gravity-free spaceship. In the first of four stories, Robot wants to watch a monster movie, but Monkey is scared. His friend advises him to put a blanket over his head and hum when he gets frightened. Armed with these strategies and a bowl of popcorn, he gets through the movie so well that he is ready for another. In "The Game," Monkey insists that he does not like games because he is sad if he loses and sorry for the other person if he wins. Robot convinces him that the fun is in the playing, not in the outcome; an overzealous roll of the die and frisky neighborhood dog result in a good time for all. In "The Cocoon," Robot shows Monkey a stick with a cocoon on the end. "It looks like a tiny sleeping bag," observes his interested, but clueless, friend. When Robot tells him the caterpillar will look different when it breaks out, Monkey imagines that a squirrel, then a raccoon, and finally a bear have emerged thanks to an alluring peanut butter and banana sandwich. In the last story, Monkey introduces Robot to hide-and-seek, more aptly named "hide-and-shriek." The large, generously spaced text is copiously illustrated with comical pencil-and-ink sketches. These silly tales will appeal to novice chapter-book readers.—Barbara Auerbach, New York City Public Schools
Big-toothed, excitable Monkey and tie-wearing, sensible Robot are housemates and best friends. Four illustrated short chapters relate their tales of misunderstanding, cooperation, and friendship. Robot, though mechanical, knows about the world and is always up for an adventure; Monkey has a lot to learn; both buddies are equally likable. In the first story, Robot wants to watch a scary movie, but Monkey is too frightened; in the second, Monkey enjoys board games more than he thought he would. In the final two, Monkey learns about cocoons and hide-and-seek: he imagines the caterpillar cocoon will transform into something amazing, like an elephant or a dinosaur, and discovers that Robot's patience is limitless in playing hide-and-seek. The black-and-white pencil illustrations both reflect and extend the written stories, allowing new readers to feel secure in the face of so much text. Readers looking for funny friendship tales but who think that Frog and Toad and other early readers are a tad too easy will find this unlikely duo just right. robin l. smith

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