Try guessing what the earliest robot was, and when it was invented. Did you possibly imagine a steam-powered mechanical bird invented all the way back in Ancient Greece by the mathematician Archytas? Well, lucky for you, you’ll get to spend some time with this “pigeon,” charmingly named Pouli (the Greek work for “bird”), who becomes the narrator and guide of Robots and Drones: Past, Present, and Future.

Pouli guides readers through Robots and Drones in a conversational way, chatting with historical inventors, other robots, and kids working on building their first bots, as well as offering context and explanation. Definitions for more technical terms are provided in square boxes alongside the illustrations. These definitions are straight-forward and accessible, enlivened by Pouli and friends’ expressive and often humorous speech bubble text. Traveling through space and time, the text doesn’t follow a narrative as much it follows Pouli, and the absence of chapter breaks makes the book all the more hard-to-put-down.

The clean, brightly-colored artwork is instantly engaging, and adapt well to the various modes of this book. Robots and Drones at turns showcases important landmarks in the history of drones and robotics, offers scientific explanations as to how robots work and are built, and lays a philosophical foundation for considering what defines robots and drones and how humans will respond to their increasing presence in our lives. The bold, inviting illustrations scaffold all of these undertakings. The historical parts of the book are brought to life by the bright colors and gentle caricatures of famous inventors from the past, and depictions of the diverse cultures which have contributed to robotics are accurate. The scientific explanations are illuminated by clear, detailed illustrations (often with parts labeled for further clarity) of how robots, drones, and computers work and are assembled. The more philosophical level of the text is made accessible with funny pictures that further understanding by bringing heady concepts down to a more concrete level. People with black, brown, and white skin are included in the pictures. All characters appear currently able-bodied, and most are slender.

A great choice for school and public libraries, Robots and Drones will not only satisfy robot and drone enthusiasts but likely inspire new readers to learn more about these fascinating, relevant creations. The book mentions “Apple’s Siri and Amazon’s Alexa” by name, but by and large avoids instant obsolescence by focusing on the history of robotics as opposed to the present. While the book is appended by two fun and informative segments (“The Hall of Awesome Robots: 25 Robots You Should Know” and “Drones! Talking and Flying!”) as well as a glossary, it unfortunately lacks a works cited page or bibliography for students and other interested readers to consult. Part of a larger Science Comics series, Robots and Drones is a fun and informative read which will leave readers with new questions, new understanding, and thinking about their own inventions.

Science Comics: Robots and Drones: Past, Present, and Future
by Mairghread Scott
Art by Jacob Chabot
ISBN: 9781626727922
First Second, 2018
Publisher Age Rating: 9-13 years old

  • Avery

    Past Reviewer

    This reviewer is not longer actively working on our site, but we would not be here if not for our many dedicated contributors over the years. We thank all of them for their reviews, features, and support! Avery is a relative newcomer to the world of comics and graphic novels who is nonetheless really excited about the medium’s capacity to enthrall, educate, and connect readers. Born and raised in the Midwestern U.S., Avery received both her undergraduate and MLS degrees from Indiana University but is now a transplant to Louisiana, where she is working as an adult services librarian and branch manager in the Tangipahoa Parish Library system. Besides reading, she’s also passionate about swimming, friendship, radical pedagogy, sewing, and trees. Her personal review blog can be found at https://aolundsmith.wixsite.com/bookcarousel.

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