Robinson

Book review by
Jan Carr, Common Sense Media
Robinson Book Poster Image
Magical story and art take readers on island adventure.

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this book.

Educational Value

Introduction to classic kids' novel Robinson Crusoe. Examples of survival skills: how to make shelter and clothes, and get food and water. Photograph of actual costume and information in art and author's note about materials needed. Examples in art of wildlife and sea life.

Positive Messages

Books can transport us. Imaginative play is fun, and our imaginations can take us on adventures. Friends can apologize when they hurt our feelings, and we can accept their apologies and move on. Survival skills are useful.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Peter loves books, especially Robinson Crusoe. He and his friends love to play imaginative games. Peter is self-reliant, surviving and thriving alone on an island. Peter's friends apologize for making fun of him. His mom is creative and makes a beautiful costume.

Violence & Scariness
Language

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Robinson, by three-time Caldecott Honor-winning author-illustrator Peter Sis (The Wall: Growing Up Behind the Iron Curtain), takes us on a magical voyage to a deserted island. Readers can imagine they're on the adventure themselves. How would you get food, water, shelter? The story's based on an evocative childhood memory, and references the classic novel Robinson Crusoe, which Sis loved. But kids don't have to know that book to be entranced by this one. Sis touches on issues of mild bullying and staying true to oneself, while communicating a deep love of literature and transporting readers to an island adventure.

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What's the story?

In ROBINSON, Peter and his friends agree to dress as pirates for the school costume party, but Peter's mom talks him into going as his favorite character, Robinson Crusoe, and makes him an elaborate costume. Peter's excited, but when his friends make fun of him, he goes home and falls into a fever dream. The dream transports him to a deserted island where he lives out his Robinson Crusoe fantasy, making his own house, finding food and water, and befriending the island's animals. He thrives on the island until a band of pirates arrive, who turn out to be his friends visiting his sick bed. The friends are sorry they hurt Peter's feelings, and together they plan more imaginative and playful adventures.

Is it any good?

This master author-illustrator takes his childhood memories of a classic kids' novel and crafts them into a new adventure story that's mesmerizing and emotionally resonant. Robinson starts off routinely enough with a kid and a costume party. We feel Peter's excitement as he puts on his elaborate costume, and then share his distress when his friends make fun of him. But suddenly Peter's carried by a fever dream to a wild island where he lives out his Robinson Crusoe fantasy, and readers are transported with him.

Peter Sis has been a Caldecott Honoree three times for a reason. His art is sumptuous. In this book, he delivers up exotic wildlife and trees, gives us a stunning aerial view of the island and Peter's activities, and a dreamy view of the island dipping its roots deep into the ocean. Midnight blues tint the fevered Peter as his "head swims," and when we turn the page, an aqua wash transports his boat to the island. This book is sure to inspire kids to embark on their own adventures, literary and otherwise.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about the dream in Robinson. Why did Peter have such a vivid dream? What do you think it meant? What do you think happened to him when he came home from the party?

  • How does the photograph at the end compare to the costume in the art? Why do you think the author wrote this book? Is there an experience you've had that you'd like to write a story about?

  • Would you like to have an adventure on an island? What other sorts of adventures would be fun?

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