A Rover’s Story employs an unusual protagonist to celebrate science, space exploration, and humanity.
A Rover’s Story by Jasmine Warga. Balzer+Bray, 2022, 294 pages.
Reading Level: Middle Grades, ages 8-10
Recommended for: ages 8-15
“I awake to knowledge. My circuits fire. The room cheers. A loud sound, but it does not startle me.” In some ways the “birth” of a robot is like the birth of a child in a hospital: Bright lights, sudden loud voices, a crowd of sensations that will later be sorted into knowledge. Otherwise, the Mars Rover (soon to be named Resilience, or Res) is a collection of parts and circuitry made for a particular mission. His creative team is headed by someone named Rania and someone named Xander, personalities he learns to distinguish and appreciate. They are humans, better known as hazmats because of the suits they are always wearing. Once or twice he notices a little hazmat whom Rania calls Lovebug.
He doesn’t know that Lovebug’s real name is Sophia and that she’s Rania’s only child. Sophie’s feelings about her mother are conflicted: pride in her accomplishments alternating with resentment at her frequent absences. Sophie writes a letter to Res as a school assignment, but as the robot gains knowledge and skill, she feels a growing kinship with him. Their voices alternate as Res completes his training and is launched to Mars, accompanied by a surveillance drone he names Fly. Neither Sophie nor Res anticipate the challenges awaiting them.
It’s science fiction, but just barely. Res is such an appealing character a reader can easily forget he’s a robot. As for Sophie, she also has a mission to complete: growing up. I would have appreciated a little more of her voice, but The Rover’s Story still packs an emotional punch as Res becomes more “human.” Readers may never view robots in the same way again.
Overall Rating: 4
Worldview/moral value: 3.75
Artistic/literary value: 4.25
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Also at Redeemed Reader:
Reviews: Jasmine Warga is the author of Other Words for Home, a Newbery honor book.
Reviews: For robot enthusiasts, check out a National Geographic for Kids book on the subject. Fun graphic-novel treatments are Your Pal Fred, Zita the Spacegirl, and Frank Einstein and the Anti-Matter Motor.
Reviews: What would life be like on the Red Planet? See The Lion of Mars and Last Day on Mars.
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