There’s a lot of talk these days in the world of kids’ publishing about ‘books for boys’ and ‘books for girls’. It’s not quite as obvious as that toy aisle of pink baby prams, but it’s certainly there. Girls move from rainbow fairies to spunky girl detectives and onto tween/teen issue-based stories. Boys? Well, you could be forgiven for thinking it’s basically farts and superheroes from ages 6-16. I THINK I’m proud of the fact that we tend to blur those lines in our house. In fact the whole family (with the possible exception of myself!) thinks farts, superheroes and farting superheroes are hilarious and books about them are absolutely top of the reading pile!
Consequently we’ve read our share of Dave Pilkey’s Captain Underpants books and similar ones, like Aaron Blabey’s Bad Guys (recently reviewed here). Books like these work on the idea that kids will embrace reading more readily if they find something that entertains and enthralls; there’s no point insisting they read more ‘worthy’ literature if it’s going to make them resist reading altogether!
In that spirit, Miss 8 recently discovered the Ricky Ricotta’s Might Robot series – Pilkey’s wacky adventure series for junior readers. As I rolled my eyes thinking ‘Here we go again!’ , she started telling me about an intricate plotline. It had to do with a little mouse being bullied and negotiating a way to feel empowered and ‘hang in there’. Hmm…as usual, my children and their peculiar reading tastes have much to teach me.
Here’s why Sophia (aged 8) likes Ricky Ricotta’s Mighty Robot
Ricky Ricotta’s Might Robot (series) by Dave Pilkey, Illustrated by Dan Santat
Sophia is good reader for her age, and she found this series very easy to read. The books are broken into short chapters, with plenty of illustrations, and Sophia could easily whiz through a book in one solid bedtime session. The ideal readership would be 6-8 year olds.
Each of these books is based around our hero – Ricky – and his robot companion, who battles a different intergalactic bad guy in every story. Each new foe arrives from a distant planet (like the Voodoo Vultures from Venus or Uranium Unicorns from Uranus) and tries to take over the earth, which has a better climate than their home. Sophia enjoyed the fact that each story starts with a forecast of the weather on the baddies’ planet. For example, on Venus the temperature is 864 degrees and ‘mostly gassy with a chance of sulfuric acid’. No wonder Earth seems appealing!
The stories have the vibe of classic good guy/bad guy, with a dose of wild space-based action and mild cartoon violence thrown in. But what hit home with Sophia was the ‘moral’ of these mouse tales. It seems she could relate to Ricky – a nervous little mouse in a world of big characters – and loved the way he grew more resilient (albeit with the help of a mighty robot!) As Sophia puts it…
“When you feel as though you are small, for example if you’re being bullied, don’t give up on yourself because something big might happen soon to change your life.”
The other big appeal of the books is the ‘flip o rama’ pictures. These are like old school flip animation books; if you flick the pages back and forth quickly enough, the images almost look as though they’re moving. Handy finger placement guides make it easy to know what to do! This interactivity is just another way these clever contemporary reads ensure kids never see books as ‘boring’.
Here’s a preview…
And you can also visit the Scholastic website to build your own cool robot, just like Ricky’s.