cover image Maya and the Robot

Maya and the Robot

Eve L. Ewing, illus. by Christine Almeda. Kokila, $16.99 (224p) ISBN 978-1-984814-63-0

Maya Robinson, a Black, science-loving fifth grader, is having a tough start to the school year: her two best friends, MJ and Jada, are in a different class for the first time since the group was five. Though Maya is close to her parents and younger brother, Amir, she still struggles with feeling lonely, left out, and shy at school, where she’s having trouble befriending new classmates, especially bully Zoe Winters. Then Maya unearths barrel-bodied robot Ralph while helping at Mr. Mac’s neighborhood store. Throwing herself into figuring out how Ralph works, Maya uses notes left by his builder, Mr. Mac’s son, Christopher. Ralph can walk, talk, help with chores, and more; the robot doesn’t always execute every command perfectly, however, and disaster ensues when Maya brings Ralph to the school science fair. Maya is a winning protagonist amid a warm, mostly Black cast, continually grounded and guided by her compassion, ingenuity, and curiosity. Interspersed with charming, animation-style b&w illustrations by Almeda, Ewing’s tender-hearted middle grade debut wholly conveys the strength it takes to come out of one’s shell, the thrill of discovery and creation, and the power of pursuing wonder. Ages 8–12. (July)