CM . . .
. Volume XIV Number 9 . . . .December 21, 2007
Davide Cali. Illustrated by AnnaLaura Cantone. Translated by Marcel Danesi.
Toronto, ON: Tundra Books, 2008.
32 pp., hardcover, $22.99.
Kindergarten-grade 3 / Ages 5-8.
Review by Gregory Bryan.
I'll make a robot mom! Mama Robot would never be at her desk. She'd spend all her time with me. She'd always take me to school. I'd be the only one who has a real robot for a mom.
When a young boy feels that his hard-working mother is neglecting him, he starts to imagine how wonderful it might be to have a robot mother. After all, a robot mother would complete his homework for him, cook only the foods that the boy liked, let him stay up late to watch scary movies, and, best of all, she would never yell at him.
Davide Calž originally penned the imaginative, playful text for Tundra Books' Mama Robot in Italian. Translated by Toronto's Marcel Danesi, the text juxtaposes the potential of a robot mother against the reality of a flesh and blood mother. Children will enjoy imagining additional possibilities were they able to construct their own mama robot. On the other hand, the mothers who share this book with their children will merely shake their head and scoff at the idea of their children being able to survive (let alone thrive) without them!
In what I suspect is a nod toward the femininity of motherhood, throughout the book, there is an intriguing use of the colour pink. Whether it is lavishly splashed on some pages or subtly, discretely edged onto other pages, and whether it is vibrant and gaudy or softly muted, AnnaLaura Cantone's use of pink is one of the fascinating features of the illustrations. The pink touch provides an interesting contrast to what is otherwise a largely drab, even sombre, palette. There is also an interesting use of lines throughout the artwork, particularly vertical lines. In some places, the lines are thick, and in other places, wispy thin. Some lines are ruler straight, but others are haphazardly sketched. In many places, the lines are prominent in the foreground, while elsewhere they are subtly imbued into the background. Regardless, the vertical lines are a feature of each image. These contrasting uses of pink and of lines are a perfect complement to the text in that they reflect the contrast between a cold, hard, mechanical robot and a real mother who has concern for her child and is able to share a loving embrace and kiss.
Cantone demonstrates her artistic ability in that she has managed not only to work in conjunction with, but also add so much to, the text. Having said this, however, I confess that I find the illustrations intriguing, rather than particularly appealing. As a matter of personal taste, I do not like the stylized, somewhat caricatured forms employed in the book; however, this review should make it clear that I recognize the quality of the illustrations and the skill necessary for their construction.
One further book feature worthy of note is the presentation of the text. The font selected for the text has a mechanical appearance to it, deliberately consistent with the notion of a robot mama. It is further evidence of the consummate marriage of words and art achieved here by Tundra Books.
Gregory Bryan teaches children's literature at the University of Manitoba. He is very happy with his own mother, thank you very much.
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