Robots rule!

posted in: Jane Bottomley | 20

When M started nursery, just over 2 years ago, she soon got a name for herself. She would turn up for her play session and announce that she wasn’t M but rather Gilbert (the Great), Suzi (or sometimes Sam, George or Alice), Krik, or any other character from the books we had been reading together that morning. It became a running joke – the staff soon learned to ask, “So who are you today?” and she’d always have a different answer. Given this history, when I found Today I am A Robot by Jane Bottomley at the library and read the first line to M and J, a broad smile soon spread across my face.

The first page of this short story, probably aimed at the toddler crowd but which M (at 5 and a half) has also been enjoying, shows a young girl waking up and getting out of bed, accompanied by the text “It’s time to decide who to be.” This is exactly what M seemed say to herself each day we went to nursery. Our young girl in the book decides that today is the day she is going to be a robot and the rest of the book follows her day dressed up as a robot until it is time for bed.

The story, told in rhyme, is full of recognizable scenarios which appeal to M and J – walking around making lots of banging noises, playing on a climbing frame with a pretend “raygun” (a spanner), carrying the shopping for mum (having been programmed as a good robot to do so πŸ˜‰ ). The rhythm and rhyme make for anticipation when turning the page and the illustrations are homely and familiar, full of fun detail (eg a notepad with robot designs on the girl’s floor, the drink spilling out of the knocked over beaker), the most important of which (of course) is the homemade robot costume.

This pleasant book isn’t going to change anyone’s life. Whilst I won’t be rushing to buy my own copy, even though the illustrations are nice and the text is easy to read, it was one of those reads that just hit the spot at the right moment in time, if you know what I mean. If you come across a copy in your own library (or any of the other books in the “Today I am” series) do pick it up and see what you think.

No prizes for guessing what we got up to having read the book umpteen times… Yep, we raided the shed for boxes and lids and scrap bit and bobs to create our own robot costumes. We were out of silver foil and so simply painted our boxes grey. J also managed to paint quite a lot of herself and the table…

In fact, I didn’t have enough boxes big enough so inspired by Pingu’s Moon Adventure M’s robot head was made from a colander – a stroke of genius as J became mesmerised sticking pipecleaners into it – a good 20 minutes of quiet activity!

Once the painted boxes were dry the girls used copious amounts of glue to stick plenty of old lids (ie buttons) and packaging (ie control panels) on to their robot bodies.

The costumes had to be left to dry for a few hours because so much glue was used, but it was worth the wait! For the evening I had two splendid robots about the house:

Unfortunately they didn’t take to programming very well πŸ™

Today I am A Robot: ** (2 stars)

Robots, it would appear, like to dance! Our robot soundtrack included:

  • How Do You Build a Robot? by Recess Monkey
  • Robot Dance by Mr Leebot
  • I’m a Robot by Peter Weatherall
  • Robot Monkey Head by John Hadfield
  • Robot by The Futureheads
  • Robot Parade by They Might Be Giants
  • Paranoid Android by Radiohead
  • The Robots by Kraftwerk

  • And if you’re after more robot inspiration try these ideas:

  • A robot themed party from Wee Wonderfuls
  • Mini robots from Simple Up
  • A robot pillow for treats or teeth from goody-goody
  • Another fab robot costume, this one from Mother Rising
  • Wooden robots from The Crafty Crow herself!
  • And if you don’t feel like making anything with the kids, there’s always this cute T-shirt from redbubble

  • Today I am A Robot was perfectly pitched to read to J, but a robot book that worked well for M, with a more complex storyline and really wonderful illustrations was Benjamin McFadden and the Robot Babysitter by Timothy Bush which I reviewed here. Do you have any favourite robot books?

    20 Responses

    1. Bernadette

      Those costumes are awesome! I love that you’ve shown us how even a mediocre book can become a treasure. All we need is some personal connection, which your little one obviously had, and a creative approach!

    2. Zoe @ Playing by the book

      Hi Catherine, Thanks! Everyone was happy with how they turned out, though the most fun was in the making rather than the wearing, it has to be said!

      Hi Bernadette, “mediocre” seems a little strong – or maybe that’s just me not wanted a “bad” review out there. Anyway, your comment got me thinking about how many kids books nowadays have to have something extra to shine – either a special printing technique, or celebrity author/endorsement, unusual binding etc. This book made me think of the phrase “the simple pleasures in life” – nothing fancy, nothing that would turn heads in a bookshop, but still lovely. And as you said, it made a real connection with my kids.

    3. trish

      sweet! Thanks for linking. These robot suits are super adorable! I wanted to host a similar program at the library but didn’t have enough large boxes for all the kids; we settled for miniature robots.

      Looking forward to reading more of your blog!

    4. Natalya

      Awesome! I’ve never thought that large boxes can be so much fun!
      No box goes to recycling in my house from now on – I’m to start collecting boxes for when my little boy is ready to become a robot πŸ™‚
      Beautiful post.

    5. Katie Fries

      What a fun project! I’ll share an idea that you may want to try another time: my kids have enjoyed making “recycled robots” out of used (rinsed and cleaned) juice boxes and milk cartons. They use old buttons, bottle caps, google eyes (from the craft store), and other repurposed items to make eyes, hats and other features. They then use blocks or Lego to make homes for their robots.

      Not a book, but we also love Wall-E. We are actually big fans of robots around here.

    6. Zoe

      Hi Natalya
      Lovely to have you visit Playing by the book. One tip on storing boxes – we tend to take the tape off, and fold them flat so they take up less space (at least for the big ones.

      Hi Katie
      We’re big Wall-E fans too. In fact our two bins in the kitchen are called Wall-E and Eva because they look a little like the respective characters (and no, we don’t have a space age kitchen!). I love the idea fo your smaller robots and especially building homes for them out of lego.

    7. Bernadette

      You are right – you didn’t say “mediocre”, I did – and I’ve not even read the book so I don’t mean to give it a bad review. It’s just so often I read blogs and discussion boards geared toward 5-star, award-winning books…it’s refreshing to read about an “average” book. (Is that a better word?!)

    8. magg, red ted art

      Made me smile.


      Love the fact that the pipe cleaner bit kept your little one quiet for a WHOLE 20 minutes. Brilliant!


      Now I know what to do with all those bottle tops I have been saving.. have a whole bag full!!

      Maggy x

    9. Janelle

      Those robots are decked to the max! I was thinking of doing a robot post, too, but my son expressed absolutely no interest in the book I chose (Robot Zot) so I decided against it.

    10. Choxbox

      Wow. Those are SUCh cool robots!!

      One time there was an exhibition of Honda’s ASIMo robot at the Science Museum. My (then) 5 yr old LOVED it and made a ‘book’ out of her experience – wrote and illustrated it. Still have it, and it makes me smile even now πŸ™‚

      Btw I spotted One Smart Fish at the NHM on Monday and bought it – thanks for the reco!

    11. Jen

      Oh my goodness- what a fun activity!

      I recognized you on Creative and Curious Kids today with an award. πŸ™‚

    12. sunnyvale422

      Dang, this book is not in our Link+ system. It would have probably been well received here. Those robot costumes are absolutely fantastic – too bad my daughter is not into dressing up πŸ™‚

    13. Ian @ Tidy Books

      Brilliant. Shame the programming didn’t go so well, do let us know if you manage to update the robots with software that does make programming easier!

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