Quote of the Month

When love and skill work together, expect a miracle. John Ruskin

Monday, March 2, 2015

Uptime Ending

As soon as the words are uttered by an adult, the children show an unprecedented genius.  Plans worthy of a seasoned general are put into place.  It's a battle of strategy and wits.  Even if the guys and gals previously seemed to be slowing down, the sound of "It's time for bed" will energize them into action.

They will develop a thirst similar to an individual wandering the Sahara for days without a drop to drink.  A need for clean pajamas, the brushing of teeth, another trip to the bathroom, forgotten homework needing to be completed by morning, and please, pretty please, just one more story will be only a few of their moves for avoiding the dreaded bedtime.  Power Down, Little Robot (Henry Holt and Company, March 3, 2015) written by debut picture book author Anna Staniszewski with illustrations by Tim Zeltner gives a unique spin to the nuts and bolts of a daily ritual.

"Bedtime, my little robot!"
Mom Unit calls.
I quickly open my stalling

A plea for an extra drink, a can of oil, goes unfulfilled.  The age-old statement, everybody else doesn't have to go to bed this early, falls on deaf ears.  Even slowing the nightly cog cleaning does not work.

Unfortunately, Little Robot finds himself with no place to go but his sleep module.  Wise to his ways, Mom Unit speedily reads his requested selections.  The classic lost toy ploy is unsuccessful.

Stepping up his game, in acts of desperation, Little Robot claims to not need sleep, begs for a chance to whisper something in Mom Unit's ear, worries about things that go bump in the night, and even begins to feel a little bit like his systems are not in sync.  Regardless, the door is gently closed.  Only the glow from the night light shines in the room.

After a precise amount of time, Little Robot silently leaves his sleep module.  With stealth he moves from his bedroom.  Does Mom Unit have eyes everywhere?

She wisely reminds him why he needs to power down.  He continues to resist.  Although this time there is a difference in his module.  Perhaps the blanket is cuddlier.  Perhaps the pillow is fluffier. Perhaps his toy is snugglier.  Perhaps the stalling program is nearing completion.  Power Down, Little Robot.  

With robotic lingo replacing well-known nightly banter, Anna Staniszewski takes us into an alternate world with mechanical characters.  She gives the mother and child personality traits in which all readers will feel a connection based on their conversational exchanges.  The created dialogue feels so natural I can understand how some of the phrases might make it into bedtime rituals as soon as the story is shared and for many nights thereafter.  Here is a sample passage.

"But I need to tell you a secret!"
I lower my voice to a whisper volume.
"Did you know that a hummingbot flaps
its wings a million time a second?"
Mom Unit only laughs and clicks on
the night light.

In looking at the front dust jacket (I'm working from an F & G) you feel a sense of calm descending as Little Robot's eyes close with his Mom Unit holding his hand.  On the left, back, another interior image depicts Little Robot stalling for time after sneaking downstairs.  Mom Unit is pointing upstairs as she speaks with him.  The color palette seen here is used throughout the book, the various hues of green, purple, red, blue, a golden shade and white.  On the title page Little Robot is tip-toeing down the stairs, hoping to go undetected.  Tim Zeltner places other elements on the verso and dedication pages.  Before the narrative begins we have met the characters and understand their relationship through his illustrations.

A signature style is used to create the artwork.

The artist used acrylic on plywood and a unique combination of stains and glazes to create the illustrations for this book.

Most of the visuals extend edge to edge across two pages. As the pace of the story shifts Zeltner altered the size to a single page, a large image crossing the gutter, or smaller illustrations on several pages.  Zeltner's attention to detail is impeccable; the line work on the robot faces and bodies, the face on the toy looking like a teddy bear, the names on the drink cans, the record button on the playback device, and the drawing on Little Robot's wall.

One of my favorite illustrations is a single page dedicated to Little Robot brushing his cogs.  Behind him is the pale blue and white checked floor with bubbles rising from the sink.  He holds the protective panel in one hand as the other holds a yellow sudsy brush.  A single drop of water falls from the faucet.

Full of charm and warmth, you will definitely want to include Power Down, Little Robot written by Anna Staniszewski with illustrations by Tim Zeltner in your collection of popular bedtime titles.  It's as soothing as a lullaby.  I would pair it with All the Awake Animals Are Almost Asleep, Sleep Like A Tiger, Dream Animals: A Bedtime Journey, Time For Bed, Fred!, and Go to Sleep, Little Farm.

To learn more about Anna Staniszewski and Tim Zeltner please follow the links attached to their names to access their website or gallery.  At the site for Tim Zeltner you are able to see the range of his artwork.  Anna Staniszewski talks about the collaborative process at Wendy Martin Illustration, Artist Blog!  Here is the link to the publisher's website featuring other interior illustrations from the book.  The publisher has created Sleepy Time Tips and printable robot door hangers.

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