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There’s something so irresistible about a wordless graphic novel – you take a peak at the first page, and before you know it you’re halfway through the book. And while reading a wordless book might not count as reading to some picky people, I firmly believe it does. Even though it doesn’t require you to read words on a page, you are still reading a story – reading the pictures, individually and in sequence, to piece together what is happening. The reader might start to narrate it internally, and it gives the reader opportunity to use imagination in a different way than a written story. I think each format has its place, and Sara Varon’s Robot Dreams is certainly a fine example of its form.

At first the dog seems like the hero of the story, assembling his mail-order robot and becoming best buds. They become regular library patrons – sure to endear this book to any librarian with a heart – and once they’ve done some research on dog beaches, set off for a day’s adventure. Unfortunately, the trip doesn’t turn out as they planned, and Robot and Dog are separated. Dog tries to make other friends, and Robot dreams of possible futures for himself. It’s surprisingly sad and sweet, but also funny. There’s a lot going on in terms of friendship and responsibility and obligation and loneliness – in fact, I think I could easily read this through a few more times and pick up on more and more complex themes each time. Which is not to say that it would be hard for a child to read and understand and enjoy that book – I think the opposite would be true.

This would be great for a beginning reader who wants a break from sounding out words to whiz through a story, for readers who think they’re too old for picture books but still want to look at pictures, and for anyone looking for a graphic novel that’s appropriate for any age.

August 2008

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