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Mama Robot

by Davide Cali; AnnaLaura Cantone, illus.; Marcel Danesi, trans.

Wouldn’t it be nice to have a mom who’s never too busy, who can chase away barking dogs and protect you from annoying neighbours? A mom who’s always there? So thinks the young boy in Davide Cali’s delightful Mama Robot.

Cali, an Italian author and illustrator with 20 books and numerous awards to his credit, describes the longing of the young narrator for a mother who is completely accommodating. His perfect solution is a robot mother, programmed to allow late-night scary movies, messy rooms, and no teeth-brushing. She would serve French fries for supper every night and do his homework, too. Drawing on familiar situations that young children can relate to, Cali portrays the universal struggle between kids who want to do things their way and parents who won’t let them.

This sense of “us against them” is quickly downplayed in the intricate and comical illustrations by AnnaLaura Cantone, award-winning Milan illustrator of more than 30 books. Her cartoonish characters are all eyes and noses, including the cat with the extra-long tail that appears as a running gag throughout. Tiny lines swirl around each shape and draw the eye across every inch of the page. Even more compelling is Cantone’s use of bits of fabric and metal to add texture to drawings that are already rich with colour and motion.

Translated from the Italian by Toronto author and anthropology professor Marcel Danesi, this humorous story captures the conflicted feelings kids have toward their parents. Ultimately, the young narrator realizes that although a robot mom will do everything he asks, it doesn’t have a real mom’s softness, or her ability to hug and kiss. With visual appeal for both parents and kids, Mama Robot is a perfect melding of text and illustration in a story that satisfies.