A couple of the books that I most enjoyed reading because of the Cybils were Laika and Robot Dreams.
Laika by Nick Abadzis (amazon)
Laika combines fact and fiction in a retelling of the story of the first dog in space. I didn’t really know a whole lot about the historical background of Laika’s flight, I enjoyed reading her story, which was told from the point of view of multiple characters. We see a little bit of Laika’s early life on the streets of Moscow. Other featured characters include the engineer Korolev who is incredibly ambitious after his experience as a political prisoner, the dog trainer Yelena, and a little girl who wasn’t able to keep Laika as a pet.
Even though I knew what was going to happen, I still got a little teary-eyed at the end of the book. The details about the unforeseen political issues that occurred after Laika’s flight were also very interesting. The thick black lines of the art serve to emphasize the anxiety and emotions of Laika’s caretakers. Laika is a must-have book for most school libraries, as it would fit in well with history curriculum since it so capably dramatizes the human elements of the early space race. Also, it has a bibliography! As a librarian, I do find bibliographies in graphic novels quite thrilling.
Robot Dreams (amazon)
I usually steer clear of wordless graphic novels. There isn’t really a valid reason for my doing so, I just tend to like text. So it was interesting that this year’s Cybils had two wordless nominations, The Arrival and Robot Dreams. In Robot Dreams, a dog assembles a robot from a mail order kit. They become friends, bonding over classic Hayao Miyazaki movies and making popcorn. When Dog takes Robot to the beach, Robot becomes rusty and can’t budge. Dog reluctantly abandons his new friend, when he comes back to attempt to repair him, the beach is closed.
Robot Dreams splits into parallel stories, as Robot dreams of all the adventures he can’t have. The dreams have vivid imagery; Robot hitches a ride on a bird only to fall asleep being embraced by a cloud, he digs his way up to the top of a mountain, and encounters a friend in his dream in the shape of a flower. Dog meets new people, but they don’t seem to be able to replace his lost Robot pal. The art is simple and engaging, portraying a variety of creatures going about their day to day tasks. Robot Dreams is a great story of friendship lost and found. And it has robots in it, so you know it has to be cool 🙂
Review copies were provided by the publisher.