We all know you shouldn’t judge a book by its cover, but it’s hard not to with one as gorgeous as this. A huge grey robot stands alone on a pile of rocks, tall trees behind her and green sea in front. It’s an arresting image: a literally un-natural being in a purely natural environment. It’s not surprising to learn in a note from the author that this juxtaposition inspired the story. Peter Brown, better known until now for his picturebooks, couldn’t get the image of a ‘wild robot’ out of his head.
Roz is a man-made machine, but one intelligent and adaptable enough to thrive when she finds herself alone in the wilderness. She drapes herself in leaves and seaweed to blend in, learns to communicate with the animals she meets, and ultimately adopts one: a lone gosling called Brightbill becomes her baby, and she becomes his mama. This relationship powers the rest of the story, as Roz learns what it means to need and care for others, and Brightbill learns how to grow up – even if it’s not in the traditional way of other goslings.
Perfectly accompanied by Brown’s stylised illustrations, The Wild Robot unfolds as an examination of what it means to live a life. If that sounds over the heads of its intended readers, it’s not: the chapters are short, the language is direct, the jokes are funny, and the characters are lively. It left me wanting to know more about Roz and the world she’s from, and hoping there’ll be a sequel. This is quite simply a beautiful, thoughtful, enjoyable, compassionate, wonderful book.