Guido Van Genechten. Clavis (Legato, dist.), $17.95 (40p) ISBN 978-1-60537-317-1
Ben, a curly-haired blond boy, has four animal playmates: Elly, Raf, Tiger, and Mouse (readers will probably glean that these pals are stuffed toys that Ben brings to life in his imagination). These friends “always do exactly what Ben says. Always. It’s getting a little boring.” Enter Tobor, a robot that Ben gets for his fifth birthday. Tobor can do fun things like run around and tell stories, but he’s also tireless, leaving Ben exhausted. Ben soon goes back to his more pliant pals, only to realize that he misses Tobor. Van Genechten’s mixed-media drawings have a sweet, homey feel—Tobor resembles a cardboard box with rivets—and the story offers opportunities to think about friendships, fickleness, group dynamics, and appreciating companions’ unique qualities. But the book’s ideas don’t really go anywhere, and the characters feel stunted. Ben never considers the feelings of his loyal animal friends, who amount to cute cyphers. Tobor makes the biggest emotional journey, evolving from his initial cheery relentlessness into someone who learns from what Ben teaches him, but it’s not clear how Ben brings this about—artificial intelligence, perhaps? Ages 5–up. (Oct.)
Reviewed on: 08/14/2017
Release date: 10/01/2017
Genre: Children's
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