cover image If I Had a Robot

If I Had a Robot

Dan Yaccarino. Viking Children's Books, $14.99 (34pp) ISBN 978-0-670-86936-7

Kitschy art brightens a tired tale that begins as Mom delivers a classic ultimatum: Phil can't leave the dinner table until he finishes his vegetables. ""I hate vegetables!"" the boy exclaims, sticking out his tongue with displeasure. ""I bet if I had a robot he would eat those vegetables at my command!"" Thrilled by that possibility, he imagines a series of wide-bodied, fearsome robots that willingly do his homework, feed the dog and attend school in his place (""Why, he could even kiss my Aunt Louise!""). Yaccarino (Carnival; Bam Bam Bam) punctuates nearly every statement with ""Hey!,"" ""Boy!"" and even ""Yessiree!"" This approach mildly juices up Phil's narration, but the volume's main appeal comes from the quirky sci-fi illustrations. Yaccarino's characters appear distorted, as if seen through a fish-eye lens; the narrator's smile stretches across his oblong face toward his tiny ears. The hulking robots, painted in simple red, blue, purple or green, have stiff tin-can shapes and obedient personalities straight out of a 1950s B-movie. Ages 2-7. (Sept.)