A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this book.
Maya loves science and relays what she's read about many things including how to ripen bananas faster with the help of chemistry, how you can use cabbage juice as an acid/base indicator, and the different kinds of batteries. She looks up and explains scientific terms such as alloy, actuator, and resistor. Maya also talks about being a research scientist and how the scientific process includes lots of trial and error. The robot is named for the mouse in Beverly Cleary's The Mouse and the Motorcycle.
Big learning lessons on friendship and embracing who you are. Mr. Mac says, "When you have a big heart and a big mind and a big spirit, the right kind of people will see it. And if they don't see it, they ain't the right kind of people." Also, use your gifts to help others.
Positive Role Models
Maya's worries and emotions sometimes keep her from connecting with others and she realizes this by the end of the story and opens up to friendship again. She's passionate about learning, especially science, and spends a lot of her own time reading, at the library and at the museum discovering everything she can. She's also a hard worker who helps with chores and at the neighborhood store. Diverse characters are in abundance in this story. Maya and her friends are Black, the neighbors are Black, Asian American, Middle Eastern, and Latinx. A demonstrator at the museum uses they/them pronouns. Also, a robotics scientist at Stanford University is a woman.
Violence & Scariness
A death from gun violence a decade before is heavily mourned. A food fight. Some mild bullying behavior.
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Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that Eve L. Ewing's Maya and the Robot, illustrated by Christine Almeda, is a coming-of-age story great for girl scientists. Maya already knows a whole lot about science before she gets the amazing gift of an old robot. As she brings the robot back to working order, kids will learn about batteries, voice commands, and more. They may also relate to Maya's friend worries. She's lonely a lot and bullied just a little. Diverse characters are in abundance here. Maya and her friends are Black, the neighbors are Black, Asian American, Middle Eastern, and Latinx. A demonstrator at the museum uses they/them pronouns, and Maya corresponds with a female scientist at Stanford University. Spoiler alert: It's a secret for much of the story that someone died years ago from gun violence, and this person is heavily mourned by friends and family. Readers are sure to shed some tears as well when this is revealed.
Is It Any Good?
Diverse characters, poignant moments, and joy in all things science make this girl-meets-robot story lovely and memorable. Fifth-grader Maya is someone to root for from the start. She's curious about everything and hard working. When her friends move to another class, she's suddenly very lonely. She lives too far away to see them outside of school and now doesn't even share a recess with them. Maya's close relationship with Mr. Mac, the convenience store owner, helps her cope, especially when he knows just what to give her that will thrill her scientific mind.
Maya and the Robot begins with a glimpse of the end of the story, when Ralph the robot starts a food fight in the school cafeteria during the science fair -- so you know hijinks are coming. With that kind of opener, readers may be surprised at the story's sadder side. Maya faces a loss felt by the whole community, even ten years after the event. This loss turns Ralph into more than just a fun toy to show off at school. He's imbued with purpose to help others and help them heal. And what better lesson for budding scientists, especially ones that bring much-needed diversity to the profession, than for them to know how much good they can do in the world if only they set their brilliant minds to it?
Did we miss something on diversity?
Research shows a connection between kids' healthy self-esteem and positive portrayals in media. That's why we've added a new "Diverse Representations" section to our reviews that will be rolling out on an ongoing basis. You can help us help kids by suggesting a diversity update.