by Linda Zajac
32 pages; ages 4-9
Millbrook Press, 2021
theme: Engineering, animals, STEM
Animals are motion masters. They skitter, scuttle, grip, glide, spring, cling, and more.
In this book, Linda Zajac shows a diversity of robots that mimic animal movements. Octopus-inspired arms could help doctors perform surgeries, hummingbird robots are perfect for spy missions in cities, and the sticky feet of a gecko-bot make it perfect for repairing a spacecraft.
What I like about this book: I like the way each spread begins with motion. For example: “Swoop like a bat, flapping webbed wings.” Verbs highlight the actions that we will see the robot perform. In this case it’s a drone with flexible bat-inspired wings that allow it to dart and turn in flight. I like that there is a photo of the creature on one page, and the facing page has a photo of the robot – so readers can compare the two. And I really like that Linda ends with a challenge for young readers to take a close look at animals around them because the next discovery could be … YOURS! Back matter includes notes about “blueprints from nature” and a glossary.
This book pares down the technical stuff to the basics so well that I knew I just had to ask Linda One Question:
me: Can you share how you came to the structure for this book, presenting the movements of the animal and then how the robot uses those traits to do work for people?
Linda: That’s a great question. Since I was writing about biomimicry, specifically animal locomotion, I knew I wanted the book to include animals, robots, and motion. I considered different structures. I tried to turn it into a counting book and an alphabet book, but it felt like I was forcing the information into a format that didn’t quite work. Since both robots and animals are high-interest subjects, I liked the idea of giving them equal weight. To do this, I needed a line that worked for both, like Hannah Holt's text in The Diamond and the Boy. My first draft was verbose. I eventually pared those lines down to be the simple ones that appear in the book.
When I first sent it out, all the robot information was in the back matter. I was fortunate that my first editorial contact gave me a personal response. She thought the text was too sparse. It was a simple matter to move the robot info out of the back matter and into the main text.
Thanks, Linda! .
Beyond the Books:
Observe an animal for a few minutes. Make a list of words that describe how it moves. Try moving like the animal moves. Then design a robot that could make those kinds of motions.
Build a scribble bot. All you need are some markers, a cup, and a motor – and lots of tape. Here's how to make it.
Check out these other books about robots and biomimicry here: two books about engineering and biomimicry, Everything Robotics, and Cool Robots series
Linda is a member of #STEAMTeam2021. You can find out more about her at her blog.
Today we're joining Perfect Picture Book Friday, an event where bloggers share great picture books at Susanna Leonard Hill's website. Review copy provided by the publisher.