The Wild Robot is a Middle Grade sci-fi/survival/talking animal book. I had seen it before and considered getting it, but I have too many books as it is. When I saw that my local public library had added it to their Overdrive audiobook collection, I pounced on it. I believe my checkout included access to accompanying files with illustrations, but I didn't attempt to find and open those files.
The Wild Robot begins with a terrible shipwreck during a hurricane (although the words "climate change" are never used, this is definitely a vision of the near future that includes some of the effects of climate change). The ship's cargo included several robots, only one of which survived the wreck. That robot, Roz, is activated by a group of curious otters. Over the next few months, Roz gradually learns how to survive in the wild and communicate with the animals around her. Can a robot somehow make friends and find a home in such a wild place?
I really enjoyed how this audiobook started. The beginning seemed very much like a robot survival book, as Roz attempted to figure out how to protect herself from the elements and from animals. She was programmed to be nonviolent and was therefore incapable of fighting back against any animals that attacked her. She was also programmed to keep herself clean and shiny, a serious drawback in outdoor survival, where her shininess drew attention to her and prevented her from properly hiding from dangers.
I was a bit disappointed when Roz learned to communicate with animals and this suddenly morphed from an outdoor adventure into a talking animal book. Somehow, Roz's newfound animal communication skills allowed her to talk to all animals she came across in full sentences, and allowed them to talk to her in full sentences. I had some trouble accepting that Roz and a beaver were somehow using beaver language to discuss the specifics of building a lodge. The beaver even suggested that Roz grow a garden with some help from local deer. Meanwhile, I was sitting there wondering how a beaver and deer were supposed to know anything about gardening.
Eventually, I managed to stop thinking of the book's animals as true animals so much and was able to think of them more as talking animals, which helped me enjoy the story more. (I'm guessing that the author really did intend for them to be true animals, based on details later on in the book. But animal communication doesn't work like that, so I'm just going to go with my "talking animals with a few true animal characteristics" interpretation.)
Roz's efforts to find a place for herself and make friends were nice, although the lengths she had to go to before the animals stopped considering her a monster and started considering her a friend occasionally bothered me. I mean, what if she hadn't been able to build all those lodges?
At any rate, I particularly liked her efforts to figure out motherhood after she accidentally became the mother of a gosling. I worried about where Brown planned to go with that. In theory, Roz could outlive Brightbill, her son. If you, like me, worry about fictional animals, I can tell you that
there were a few animal deaths here and there but that, as far as I can remember, none of the animals readers are likely to be most attached to die.
I did start to worry that Roz wasn't going to make it, though. It's amazing the amount of damage she sustained in only a few months living in a forest. With no humans around, there was no way for her to acquire new parts or get any kind of maintenance. It was a relief to know that a sequel already existed. If Roz was the main character of that book as well, surely she wouldn't be destroyed at some point in The Wild Robot.
Kate Atwater's narration was wonderful. I liked most of the voices she chose for the various animals, and her robotic Roz voice somehow managed to be appealing. She was accompanied by various sound effects, such as otter squeaks and button clicks, which I thought was nicely done.
All in all, I enjoyed this and will probably read (or listen to) the next book at some point.
(Original review posted on A Library Girl's Familiar Diversions.)