Runaway Robot is a book is about friendship, acceptance, difference, bravery and robots! When Alfie goes to Airport Lost Property, he finds a 100-year-old robot called Eric (inspired by the first British robot). Eric has lost his leg and Alfie has lost his artificial hand. They form a strong friendship and help put each other back together. Along the way, they encounter other (lesser functioning) robots and other children trying to adapt to losing a limb. As we would expect from this highly appealing author, the story is full of both humour and heart.
The group of misfits with prosthetic limbs at the ‘Limb Lab’ are a super supporting cast, particularly Shatila who learned English from Alexa and consequently omits or misplaces punctuation in her speech. Exploring her character could lead to some super fun read aloud sessions, but also a discussion about how language is learned and the challenges faced by EAL members of your school. The cause of her prosthetic limb also offers the opportunity to explore the devastating consequences of landmines.
Eric is the cause of much humour in the story as he follows instructions to the letter and takes everything literally. The story is presented in Steps (instead of chapters) and as the reader follows the ‘steps’, they learn more about Alfie and Eric’s stories and their journey towards fulfilment. Lots of small steps can lead to great things and with each step Alfie gains confidence and increased self-awareness. The story explores what being lost actually means both literally and metaphorically. Arty, Alfie’s brother is in a coma – lost within himself and Alfie has ‘lost’ his own way in the world and doesn’t really feel like he fits in at school or with the other children at the Limb Lab.
Steve Lenton’s illustrations add to the action and humour. The reader can see the closeness of the relationship between boy and robot, both the fun they have together and the genuine care they have for each other. This story raises questions about humanity, Rene Descartes (‘I think therefore I am’) and could also add insight into looking at inventions and engineering linked to Leonardo da Vinci. Direct comparisons can be made with The Iron Man, particularly regarding the question of free will and the reaction of others to a being that is misunderstood, different and unpredictable.
This book has been selected for year 4 in Just Imagine’s Reading Gladiators programme
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