Review of The Little Wooden Robot and the Log Princess

The Little Wooden Robot and the Log Princess
by Tom Gauld; illus. by the author
Primary, Intermediate    Porter/Holiday    40 pp.    g
8/21    978-0-8234-4698-8    $18.99
e-book ed.  978-0-8234-5067-1    $11.99

Familiar fairy-tale tropes are re-envisioned through Gauld’s (a cartoonist and New Yorker cover artist) particular deadpan lens for this original fairy tale. A childless royal couple calls upon technology (the royal inventor) and magic (the clever old witch) to solve their problem. The wooden robot and the log princess are the happy result. Their particular natures and needs land this brother and sister in a series of sticky situations, and things get just tense enough before order is restored. Like many folktales, this one resonates with age-old (and contemporary) anxieties such as loneliness and the nature of being human. But unlike traditional tales, this narrative contains no malevolent characters. Bad luck sets the plot spinning, and sibling love and the kindness of strangers help set everything to rights. The pictures demonstrate Gauld’s genius with simple-seeming line drawings and the crisp, clean use of ­cartoon-panel page design. In his children’s book debut, Gauld demonstrates his love for odd, funny, invented archetypes (such as the Queen of the Mushrooms) while elsewhere playing it absolutely straight, showing respect for his audience and for the fairy-tale form.

From the July/August 2021 issue of The Horn Book Magazine.

Sarah Ellis
Sarah Ellis is a Vancouver-based writer and critic, recently retired from the faculty of The Vermont College of Fine Arts.

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