cover image Nova's Ark

Nova's Ark

David Kirk. Scholastic, $17.95 (40pp) ISBN 978-0-590-28208-6

In this bittersweet tale of sentient robots, Kirk replaces the lush organic scenery of his Miss Spider series with richly colorful industrial shapes. Nova, a square-headed, swivel-jointed droid, owns the title relic: a fanciful wooden ark containing a set of miniature animals. ""A ship like this would never fly, he thought, but in those distant times men traveled this planet on seas of water--a liquid that had vanished from Roton long ago."" While Nova plays with the ark, he wonders how his star-pilot dad is doing on a mission to find needed fuel for planet Roton. Nova's curiosity about his father leads him on an interstellar mission, during which his skills as an inventor (he creates robotic versions of the animals of the ark and converts one of them to a spaceship) help him and his planet survive. Kirk's sharp-contrast images of spacecraft and rocky surfaces glow with Martian red light and lime-green accents, and appear remarkably three-dimensional. The orbiting ship seems to fly out of the book and into readers' space. Nova's animal friends (among them a metallic Miss Spider) help lift the gloomy mood, as do the hero's charming customs of drinking and bathing in motor oil. Yet the dense, unrhymed prose and stark high-tech imagery can't simulate cheer; Nova's universe is impersonal and bleak. Kirk's melancholy tale imparts a mournful message of a bygone Earth, despite a happy ending for the amiable automatons. Ages 4-7. (Mar.)