Review of Ultrabot's First Playdate

Ultrabot’s First Playdate
by Josh Schneider; illus. by the author
Preschool, Primary    Clarion    32 pp.    g
7/19    978-1-328-49013-1    $17.99
e-book ed.  978-0-358-06358-2    $12.99

At first glance, this doesn’t look like a what-to-expect-when-hosting-a-playdate story. The first-timer here is a massive red robot that “lived with its professor in a little top-secret laboratory.” As a bird’s-eye-view illustration shows, however, the laboratory is neither little nor top-secret. It’s an imposing hangar-like structure nestled incongruously among modest houses in a suburban neighborhood. Young listeners and readers may find they identify more with Ultrabot than with its child playmate — next-door neighbor Becky Tingle, who’s seemingly unfazed by visiting a barn-sized robot. Playdate veteran Becky models positive social behavior, putting shy, unsure host Ultrabot at ease. After playing ball, drawing, and having lunch (“they both liked their crusts cut off”), Ultrabot “decided it was safe to share its toys with Becky.” What Schneider’s understated text doesn’t say, his intriguing, meticulous, and detail-rich mixed-media illustrations fill in. To cut the crusts off Ultrabot’s “sandwich,” its professor needs a forklift, eye protection, and a blow torch. Storytime audiences will want to revisit the illustrations for more outrageous comical juxtapositions. And speaking of revisiting — after Becky goes home, Ultrabot wants to know when she can come back. Surveying the colossal mess her charge and pal have left in their wake, the professor suggests next time they go to Becky’s. Kids will crack up at the playdate’s aftermath; grownups will feel the professor’s pain; all will happily revisit this extraordinary playdate over and over.

From the July/August 2019 issue of The Horn Book Magazine.

Kitty Flynn
Kitty Flynn is consulting editor for The Horn Book, Inc.

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