A Curious Robot on Mars!

James Duffett-Smith, Author, Bethany Straker, Illustrator
James Duffett-Smith, illus. by Bethany Straker. Skyhorse/Sky Pony, $14.95 (132p) ISBN 978-1-62087-994-8
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Newcomer Duffett-Smith gives the Mars rover Curiosity a personality, then casts the robot in a fantasy with two other space exploration icons. Straker (Zombie Cat) transforms Curiosity’s camera turret “head” into an adorably expressive face, Wall-E style. The story starts on a grim note, though, as Curiosity is fired by Mission Control. “You’ve found ice, and you’ve found rocks,” a technician says over a videophone. “Your mission is over.” A long shot of Mars and Earth floating in inky black space makes it clear that Curiosity is not only unemployed, but also permanently stranded. It’s a traumatic moment. He wipes his rover tears, though, continues exploring, and finds two other space refugees: “Out of the light, Laika, the space dog, barked at him.... And next to her, Sputnik beeped.” As Duffett-Smith points out in a jokey conclusion, Curiosity has in fact found life on Mars. Even if readers do recognize Laika and Sputnik—not a given—Duffett-Smith’s puzzling attempt to rewrite space history runs out of steam as he offers them no more than the consolation of each other’s company. Ages 3–7. (Oct.)
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