Carolyn Crimi (text) and Corinna Luyken (illustrator), Weird Little Robots, Walker Books Ltd., February 2020, 240pp., RRP $14.99 (pbk), ISBN 9781406387988
Eleven-year-old Penny Rose Mooney has moved to a new neighbourhood and is finding it a little hard to find friends. She spends most of her time in her backyard shed, creating little robots from the bits and pieces she finds around the place and wondering about the girl across the road, Lark, who seems like she’d make the perfect friend — even if she is a little strange and talks about birds a lot. Turns out Lark is a great friend and when Penny Rose’s robots come to life, they work together to look after them. Then Penny Rose is invited to join a secret science club and her friendship with Lark becomes more complicated as she is forced to choose between the club she is desperate to be a part of and a friend she has always dreamed of.
My heart was yanked and squeezed as Penny Rose wove her way through the delicate dance of friendship. Shaping herself to fit. I was instantly transported to painful situations where I had to make choices between people I liked, but who maybe didn’t like each other and treading a shaky line between secrets and loyalty. This made the story feel real despite the fact that robots come to life. It’s the kind of middle grade book I love, small important issues, contemporary but with some magical realism thrown in to give it a touch of wonder.
I also adored how it incorporated science into the lives of two ordinary girls and didn’t try to shove scientific concepts down the readers neck or focus on science-y details. It was more simply about each girl’s passion — for Penny Rose it was making robots and for Lark it was birds.
The full-page black and white illustrations dotted throughout the book by Corinna Luyken really complement the story and give it that lovely middle-grade feel. The illustrated bits and pieces that surround each chapter – a button, paperclip, rubber bands – give it that creative, science-y feel and the cover is gorgeous.
A sweet, engaging story simply told, that explores the magic and trials of friendship. Perfect for readers 9+ with a love of science, creating and/or contemporary stories.
Reviewed by Renee Mihulka