Sunday, May 6, 2012

Book #127: If I Had a Robot by Dan Yaccarino

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Phil’s not allowed to leave the dinner table until he finishes his vegetables, a food group he detests. If only he had a robot to eat his cauliflower and Brussels sprouts with a flick of a switch. Having a robot would be so helpful! He’d do everything Phil doesn’t want to do, practice his piano lessons, feed the dog, and even kiss Aunt Louise. The robot would help Phil become king of the world! No, the universe! Phil’s imagination is soaring until Mom says, “Whoever eats their vegetables gets chocolate cake for dessert!” Suddenly, Phil is a lot more motivated to finish his dinner without a robot friend.

The illustrations feature Yaccarino’s signature big-headed, wide-mouthed human characters, plus an army of robots (check out my posts on Cooking with Henry and Elliebelly and The Belly Book, also illustrated by Yaccarino). Each page features a slightly different robot; it’s as if Phil is using his imagination to try out different robot looks. There’s a timeless quality to the characters and the settings, as if Phil has been daydreaming while reading a stack of Popular Mechanics magazines from the 1950’s. The minimal text is conversational and has a great sense of rhythm, even though the lines don’t rhyme. 

I highly recommend this book for storytime because it’s a quick read and it’s easy to put a lot of personality into your reading. After you read the book, ask the kids what they would do if they had a robot. You can also turn this question into a writing or drawing prompt.

If you have elementary school aged kids (translation: kids who won’t put things in their mouths), then have the kids create their own personal robots. The robots in the book have cylinder and square shaped bodies, so save some small cardboard boxes. Other good robot materials are buttons or keys off of old keyboards or telephones, gears and other mechanical devices from old cameras, foil, and an assortment of wires and capacitors. If you want to stretch this activity over a few days, have the kids take apart the old telephones and cameras themselves. I suggest having each child place their old machine in a shallow, tray-like cardboard box so you don’t end up with pieces all over the floor. Check your local thrift store for cheap items to take apart.

If you’re reading this with the preschool set, try pairing it with the rhymes, Five Shiny Robots and I am a Robot. You can also sing the robot version of The Wheels on the Bus (scroll half way down the page to see the lyrics).


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