We all know that feeling of being the odd one out. Maybe we’re in a situation where we feel self-conscious and worried that nobody will like us. Starting university, new jobs, parties and social media can all evoke these social insecurities. Oh and finding yourself on an island of wild animals.
This is the situation that Roz, a washed-up robot, finds herself in when she is accidentally switched on by a gang of otters. Now you might be forgiven for thinking that robots don’t have feelings and this could turn into a game of Would You Rather … be a robot on a deserted island or a lone figure in the corner of a party? But the truth is that life for Roz is tough on her own and, as the story progresses, we begin to see she needs company for her very survival.
In a way, the emotional neutrality of Roz is quite useful. Like the blank-slate therapist, Roz’s robotic nature allows us to project our own feelings of being alone onto her character. When she’s up against it, you feel her fear … or rather you feel your fear on her behalf. She’s a robot after all. The Wild Robot.
Being a robot, Roz is very good at making sense of the world around her. She watches the animals and begins to learn what she needs to do to survive in her new environment. To some extent perhaps we all do this. But the very lovely thing about Roz is that she doesn’t change in order to fit in. Not really. She develops, grows, takes on board feedback but her essential characteristics are set in … I would say stone but I think in this case it is something much more technical than that! In the end, the animals around Roz have to decide whether to befriend her in spite of her strange metallic monster-like appearance.
There is something very heartwarming about this tale and happily for those who love it as much as I did there is a sequel, The Robot Escapes. This follows Roz’s adventure back into the city of her creation. It would be reasonable to assume that this might be an easier journey but Roz was born into the wild so it is not that straightforward.
Again there is something very relatable about this. Adapting to new environments can mean that places that once felt homely and comforting can begin to feel unwelcoming and cold. No longer at home in once-familiar territory, we can quite easily begin to feel displaced. I had better own these feelings too since, as we discovered earlier, Roz is a robot. But there is a real sense in this book of the complications we can face when trying to find our place in the world.
Overall then, a book that leaves you feeling warm and cozy but containing moments of light and shade. It is all the better for that.
Both The Wild Robot and The Robot Escapes feature beautiful images drawn by the author. But if you want to enjoy that bedtime-story experience then you can snuggle up with one of the the audio books. There are even book club guides for each book in case you want to do a buddy read. Oh, and in case you hadn’t noticed, these books were written for children but I highly recommend for any age!
I would love to know if you can identify with a sense of not fitting in and, if so, what helped you adapt? Also let me know below which children’s books you are loving and what lessons they can teach us grown-ups!