written by Scott Christian Sava
illustrated by Diego Jourdan
Writer Scott Christian Sava starts each of his books by asking “what if some cool situation happened to a kid?” In Pet Robots, the situation is—you guessed it—getting a pet robot. Four of them, to be exact.
The story starts with a class field trip to the Rooty Tooty Toy Company. A quartet of kids—brainy Jake, cell-phone addict Tommy, game freak Tammy, and nose-picker Chris—are separated from the rest of their class and wind up in a part of the factory that probably wasn’t intended for the public: The rooms they go to are filled with pushy talking teddy bears, green slime, and poop. (Yes, there is a room filled with poop. No, I don’t know why, but the target audience will probably find this hilarious.) In the last room, they find four robots and sort-of-accidentally activate them, which causes the robots to scan the children and imprint their preferences.
Unaware of this, the kids rejoin their class and go home, only to discover later that the robots have followed them. What starts out to be a little scary ends up awesome, as the robots transform into whatever the kids want—a skateboard for Tammy, a dune buggy for Tommy, a motorcycle for Chris—and hustle to grant their every wish. It’s all good fun until the comically evil chairman of the toy company sends his private army to retrieve his toys. That’s when the robots demonstrate their defensive powers, disarming the goons with jets of water, blasts of wind, and super robot strength.
Pet Robots has a Willy Wonka vibe to it, with its weird toy factory and clownlike villain. At its heart, though, this is a simple book. The story is straightforward and unfolds cleanly, one episode at a time. The creators have a nice sense of comic timing, often having a character discover something or react to a surprise over a series of smaller panels. And while the main characters are well-rounded, no one strays too far from their personality type.
Jourdan’s art has a pleasing, art-deco quality to it, making use of simple shapes and repetition to create characters and backgrounds. The art was obviously done on a computer, and a few pages look overly digitized, with zigzag lines, obvious stretching of the images, or drastic variations in line weight. These flaws will be more noticeable to adults than children, though, and they don’t interfere with the flow of the book.
Reading Pet Robots is a lot like watching a cartoon: There is plenty of action as well as verbal humor, the lines between good and evil are clearly drawn, and the bad guys are comically humiliated in the end.