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Review of Robinson

Robinson
by Peter Sís; illus. by the author
Primary    Scholastic    48 pp.    g
9/17    978-0-545-73166-9    $17.99

Building on a childhood memory, Sís writes of a school costume party where he and his friends decide to go as pirates. Intervening, his mother reminds him of his love for adventure. Why not go as Robinson Crusoe, from young Peter’s favorite book? In a flurry of action, shown in a continuous circular movement, she creates a distinctive furry brown costume for him. Peter proudly walks to the party but is met with ridicule by his friends in their brightly colored pirate costumes. He returns to his own room, a gloomy blue-gray box shown in aerial perspective that emphasizes his isolation, and falls asleep. Reminiscent of another picture-book voyager, Peter sails “in and out of hours, or maybe days,” until he arrives at a desert island, presented as a calm oval centerpiece on a full-bleed spread of concentric sea circles. Wondering if he will survive, Peter, now back in his costume, encounters strange creatures and flora in Gauguin-like illustrations that are at first dark but then alive with color and hope and possibility. Through hard work and persistence, our hero thrives, eventually hosting the island creatures to a triumphant dinner; he has become master of his own fate. But his confidence erodes when he spots pirate footprints on the shore. “Have they come to plunder and spoil? Will they try to hurt me?” Peter peers out anxiously from a furry green cloisonné forest — but fantasy has begun to blur back into reality, as he’s now dressed in his pajamas, and indeed the “pirates” are his friends, come to check up on him and invite him to play. An author’s note, including a photograph of young Sís in his costume, concludes this visually stunning and empowering tale.

From the September/October 2017 issue of The Horn Book Magazine.

About Betty Carter

Betty Carter, an independent consultant, is professor emerita of children’s and young adult literature at Texas Woman’s University.

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