It's not news to anyone who's hung around my blog/vlog for any length of time that I love the work of Ben Hatke. (Also not news to anyone who read th It's not news to anyone who's hung around my blog/vlog for any length of time that I love the work of Ben Hatke. (Also not news to anyone who read that intro, so. . .) I've talked about this many, many times, and pushed his books on many, many people, both online and IRL. So of course, I'm always looking forward to whatever's coming up next, confident in the belief that whatever it is is sure to brighten my shelves. And Little Robot is no exception to that rule.
Little Robot follows in the tradition of plucky young female protagonists and their oddball companions, set by Julia's House for Lost Creatures and the Zita the Spacegirl series. Unlike Hatke's previous books, Little Robot is nearly wordless (and of the words that make it to the page, most of them are in robot, so...), though its no less full of story as a result.
If there's anything Hatke excels at, it's injecting as much personality as possible into every frame, every character, every inanimate object -- and yes, I mean that literally. More than once, this man has made me have feels about rocks, literal rocks with eyeballs, and monsters, and what may have been a giant coil of hair or wire or something, I don't even know, but it, too. And yes, robots.
Hatke is an excellent anthropomorphosizererer, skillfully drawing the reader into caring about even the smallest and most unimposing of creatures/creations, with an immediacy that is impressive. You can't help but fall for our little unnamed adventurer and her newfound robot companion, and once you've decided to care about them, well, you may as well care about the pile of broken machinery in the junkyard, too, right? And that perky little fixer robot-bug-thingy, he's quite adorable now, isn't he? Hatke draws you into their magical little world so seemlessly that it seems obvious that you'd love these things. Of course you want to join our lonely little adventurer girl, let her lead you on explorations and discoveries, and bring smiles to each others faces.
Lest you think Hatke's books are just cute, but inconsequential, they most certainly are not. The robots and their nameless human girl may draw you in with their sweetness, but there's depth there, too. There's a loneliness and sense of longing to the story that grounds it and makes it stick with you. I think at the core of all of Hatke's stories, there's a thread of "finding your people," even if those "people" aren't people. They're all about finding your place, your companion(s), your way in the world. Hatke's characters stumble upon each other by chance and it's as if a missing piece has been found; they fit together perfectly. It's charming and sweet and funny and real, and I think you can see why I end up singing his praises so often... And this time around, I was getting double-feels because it reminded me of another nearly-wordless, unlikely robot companion story, Robot Dreams, that is just one of the bestweirdestawesomest things I've ever read. So this is in excellent company.
And of course, of course, the art is gorgeous. So what's not to like?
As I'd mentioned in my rewind, I have a feeling that people are going to end up at opposite ends of the like/dislike spectrum when it comes to thi3.75
As I'd mentioned in my rewind, I have a feeling that people are going to end up at opposite ends of the like/dislike spectrum when it comes to this book -- I don't think there will be a lot of middle ground, and it certainly won't be the book for everyone. I, myself, wasn't entirely convinced in the beginning, because I didn't really love the main character, which made me feel a little disconnected from the story, which can then translate to indifference, which is the death-knell of any book. I read something recently about "unlikable" characters that's been bothering me a bit (among other things that I read in the piece, and it's something I want to address in the coming days, because I have things to say), so I want to clarify by this that I don't think you need to have a lovable, huggable main character for a book to be successful, and unlikable can mean a lot of things; some use it to mean poorly written/realized, but when I use it, I'm almost always going to mean, kind of an ass. Zoe's kind of an ass. Her boyfriend is most definitely an ass. Rocher, yep, he's an ass, too. (I like Agathe, though. She gets a pass.) So it's a book peopled with characters that don't necessarily make you love them or root for them, which can leave people feeling ambiguous (or disconnected, as I said), and that's why I think it may be divisive and cause some irritated reactions.
But a book with unlikable characters is still capable of being successful, and developing a rich, interesting world -- plenty of classics and acclaimed books have unlikable characters; some unlikable characters inexplicably become fan-favorites -- so I'm always willing to go with it and see how things turn out, especially when it's as quick a read as this. And fortunately, though I was so hesitant with Zoe in the beginning, and found her to be a bit bratty, the story remains engaging and interesting, and has a streak of honesty (ironic, amidst the dishonesty at the heart of the book) that kept me entertained and pulled along, and I'm glad of that. Because for all that the characters are kinda d-bags, it all became more amusing for me as it went on, all the way up to the twist at the end, which I won't spoil, other than to say, that's another thing that might irritate people, but I found it oddly delightful. It was an absurd little bit of poetic justice that, even though heavy-handed, was so darkly humorous and fitting that I couldn't help but be tickled by it.
I found the simple style and muted colors of the art expressive and charming, and the clean understatedness really worked well with the story. Again, that may not be to everyone's taste, but stylistically, it was distinct and I felt it suited the story, and added to the overall feel. So all in all, there are certainly "outs" to the story -- there are things across the board that may make some readers check out and not like it. But there are plenty of "ins" too, and the expressiveness and personality of the story, characters and style, combined with the poetic justice and humor of the end work together to make it something I actually quite enjoyed, and would recommend -- for the right reader.
This is from my blog, and may not make total sense in the context of Goodreads, but it's late and I don't want to type a new review. This review is foThis is from my blog, and may not make total sense in the context of Goodreads, but it's late and I don't want to type a new review. This review is for ALL of the Olympians books, essentially. ______________
I mentioned in a book haul not long ago that I was asked to be part of the blog tour for the next installment in George O'Connor's Olympians series, Ares, and that when I said yes (yay, mythology!), the fine folks at FirstSecond not only sent me that book, but the entire boxed set — further cementing that they are amazeballs. And yes, I still said amazeballs in 2015.
Now, the reason for this (beyond said amazeballs), I'd imagine, is that I expressed a little trepidation at jumping into the series at book 7. Though I know it's a retelling of Greek myths, I wasn't sure what kind of retelling it'd be; so though I'm very familiar with Greek mythology, that's not to say that I'd be familiar with O'Connor's spin. I mean, Kendare Blake's Antigoddess is fabulous, but it's hardly a traditional retelling; same: Percy Jackson; same: everything else out there. But I needn't have worried — there's no spin! I mean, that's not to say there's no interpretation, or picking and choosing which aspects of which tales to highlight, because of course there is. But the series is more like careful curation; it presents these timeless stories just as they've always been, but in the fantastic modern medium of the graphic novel. It's faithful, but playful. And this may be weird to say, but it's kinda ballsy. In a time when everyone's looking to bank on their own twist of the well-known, it's refreshing to see someone say, Nope, these stories have stood the test of time for millennia now, so I'd much rather give you an excellent presentation of them than a modern, watered-down version*. *She says, fully loving the "modern, watered-down versions" too. I'll take 'em any way I can get 'em.
This means that you really can pick the series up at any volume. You can stock your classrooms & libraries with them, or give it to newly minted mythology buffs to fall in love with — and let me tell you, I would have adored these as a kid, when I was just getting into mythology and wanted everything I could get my hands on. And though I loved Hercules and Xena and Clash of the Titans as much as any other weirdo 12 year old obsessed with the Greeks, I was a very particular child, and would get a little grumbly about the things they *shudder* GOT WRONG. A faithful and yet lively adaptation such as these would have been an instant favorite. (And still is, now.)
Art copyright George O'Connor / FirstSecond books
But beyond the faithfulness and clarity of the presentation, I would have fallen in love with (and have fallen in love with) the artistic and narrative choices O'Connor makes. I had a feeling from almost the first moment of Zeus that I was going to love these (and I say first moment, but actually I think it was literally the first, nearly-blank page, that gave me the love-this feeling); little touches like this recurring thematic thread (right) of having 'too much of his father in him' cemented it. Which means by page 10, I was in love. This example might seem a little silly or meaningless to some of you, but it struck me for a few reasons: 1) it's a solid storytelling & artistic choice, to have the "father" (the stars) physically represented as being a part of Kronos and Zeus, 2) it's a striking image, and 3) it so perfectly and simply encapsulates the core of these myths, and how its actors are doomed to repeat the mistakes that came before them. So many Greek myths are about inescapable-ness and self-fulfilling prophecies, and to succinctly and strikingly capture that aspect so simply basically immediately won me over.
But whether those little details are likely to win you over or not, the fact remains that this is a very strong adaptation of Greek mythology, both in the art and the storytelling, and I highly recommend them.
3.5 Liked, but didn't love this one. It was very cute and had a nice quirky streak, and the art was great, but it just felt like something was missing3.5 Liked, but didn't love this one. It was very cute and had a nice quirky streak, and the art was great, but it just felt like something was missing. Might give it a reread sometime, though, to see if I get on with it better, and will probably give the next volume a try....more
Reminded me A LOT of those Alvin Schwartz Scary Stories books; had a similar feel and those twist endings, brought back what I loved about those as aReminded me A LOT of those Alvin Schwartz Scary Stories books; had a similar feel and those twist endings, brought back what I loved about those as a kid. Wanted a little more, but still really liked it, and LOVED the art. Full review to come....more