Robbie and his three friends are playing when a red space ship, filled with red robots, lands behind his house. The friendly Red Robots are searching for oil to drink and foil to eat. Without the oil and foil the Red Robots will start hissing. They ask Robbie to help them find this missing oil and foil. Agreeing, Robbie takes the Red Robots and his friends, a squirrel, a fox, and a mouse, to his flying boat.
With Captain Robbie leading the way, the group goes off in search of the robot’s food and drink. Soon, a shiny, foil wrapped castle, with n oil filled moat, appears in the air. Robbie, his animal friends, and the Red Robots must find a way to get back the Red Robots’ food and drink from a greedy, but dim-witted king.
This story is the perfect length for a bedtime story. Boys will like the red robots, the red space ship, a flying boat, and the ornery old goat that stands guard at the castle gate. There is not much action to the story. To get the oil and foil back, Robbie and the Red Robots trick the King into letting them dig up the oil and grab the foil, all in return for magic soil. Everyone flies to Robotland (sic) in the robot’s spaceship, embarrass the King, and then tell him to go home. The Red Robots never hiss and, with his animal playmates in tow, Robbie goes home.
There are several holes and inconsistencies in this story. They all climb into a flying boat that Robbie captains, yet everyone returns in the Red Robots’ red spaceship. The spaceship never flew to the castle. From the illustrations, the spaceship was left behind. When they see the black sticky moat, how do the Red Robots immediately know it is their oil? After embarrassing the King, Robbie tells him to go home. How is this dim-wit of a king going to do that? Finally, Robbie states he cannot stay and play with the Red Robots because my mummy’s made tea! How does he know this? Maybe I am being picking.
The story, told in rhyme, succeeds some of the time and stumbles at other times. Many of the lines feel forced when they should simply roll off the tongue, and at times, a word is used for the rhyme not the story. There are four lines per verse, with the second and fourth line rhyming. The forced word that stands out is gannet: a white, web-footed bird. This is the king talking to Robbie and gang. They are in the king’s castle.‘Come with us to our home And I’m sure we can plan it, That you drink well and sleep well And eat like a gannet.’
Where are they going and who is this us the King speaks of? There are single quote marks used to denote dialogue, instead of a proper quotation mark. Again, maybe it is just me, but I like stories that make sense, have logic,—even in a fantasy—and use correct grammar and punctuation. Not using quotation marks for dialogue should never happen in a finished story. All stories, even those written for children, need correct writing basics. There is no excuse for poor craft.
I think this could be a good story, with editing and revisions. I would also prefer to read this in prose. Writing in rhyme and meter is extremely difficult. When you pick up a picture book, for example, and the words glide off your tongue, with consistent meter, the writer makes rhyming look easy to write. It is not. Many a mediocre rhymed story would be a great story in prose. I think this is one of those stories.
Author: Simon J. Wilkes Illustrator: Sue Nicholls Publisher: Digital Print Partnership Publication Date: 2011 Number of Pages: 26 ISBN: 978-0-9570-8070-6
Also available on the author’s website.