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The Little Wooden Robot and the Log Princess

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In acclaimed graphic novelist Tom Gauld's first picture book for children, a little wooden robot embarks on a quest to find his missing sister-- making for a memorable contemporary bedtime story. For years, the king and queen tried desperately to have a baby. Their wish was twice granted when an engineer and a witch gave them a little wooden robot and an enchanted log princ In acclaimed graphic novelist Tom Gauld's first picture book for children, a little wooden robot embarks on a quest to find his missing sister-- making for a memorable contemporary bedtime story. For years, the king and queen tried desperately to have a baby. Their wish was twice granted when an engineer and a witch gave them a little wooden robot and an enchanted log princess. There's just one catch, every night when the log princess sleeps, she transforms back into an ordinary log. She can only be woken with the magic words Awake, little log, awake. The two are inseparable until one day when the sleeping log princess is accidentally carted off to parts unknown. Now it's up to her devoted brother to find her and return her safely to the kingdom. They need to take turns to get each other home, and on the way, they face a host of adventures involving the Queen of Mushrooms, a magic pudding, a baby in a rosebush, and an old lady in a bottle. This is acclaimed graphic novelist Tom Gauld's first picture book for children, inspired by a bedtime story he made up for his daughter. In his words, I was trying to make a book inspired by three different sets of books: The books that I remember enjoying as a child, the books that I watched my daughters enjoying, and the books I enjoy now as an adult. I wanted the book to have its own quirky feeling but also to function like a classic bedtime story.


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In acclaimed graphic novelist Tom Gauld's first picture book for children, a little wooden robot embarks on a quest to find his missing sister-- making for a memorable contemporary bedtime story. For years, the king and queen tried desperately to have a baby. Their wish was twice granted when an engineer and a witch gave them a little wooden robot and an enchanted log princ In acclaimed graphic novelist Tom Gauld's first picture book for children, a little wooden robot embarks on a quest to find his missing sister-- making for a memorable contemporary bedtime story. For years, the king and queen tried desperately to have a baby. Their wish was twice granted when an engineer and a witch gave them a little wooden robot and an enchanted log princess. There's just one catch, every night when the log princess sleeps, she transforms back into an ordinary log. She can only be woken with the magic words Awake, little log, awake. The two are inseparable until one day when the sleeping log princess is accidentally carted off to parts unknown. Now it's up to her devoted brother to find her and return her safely to the kingdom. They need to take turns to get each other home, and on the way, they face a host of adventures involving the Queen of Mushrooms, a magic pudding, a baby in a rosebush, and an old lady in a bottle. This is acclaimed graphic novelist Tom Gauld's first picture book for children, inspired by a bedtime story he made up for his daughter. In his words, I was trying to make a book inspired by three different sets of books: The books that I remember enjoying as a child, the books that I watched my daughters enjoying, and the books I enjoy now as an adult. I wanted the book to have its own quirky feeling but also to function like a classic bedtime story.

30 review for The Little Wooden Robot and the Log Princess

  1. 5 out of 5

    Dave Schaafsma

    Tom Gauld is described as the master of stripped-down storytelling in his books for adults such as Mooncop and Goliath, but in his first picture book he goes a different way, with more words than he has ever used in any project to tell a story. The art style is simple and recognizably Gauld-ish-- meticulous, engaging, beautiful, but the story is elaborate, a fairy tale of a king and a queen that wanted children, so they contracted an inventor to make a wooden robot, and a witch to make a log pri Tom Gauld is described as the master of stripped-down storytelling in his books for adults such as Mooncop and Goliath, but in his first picture book he goes a different way, with more words than he has ever used in any project to tell a story. The art style is simple and recognizably Gauld-ish-- meticulous, engaging, beautiful, but the story is elaborate, a fairy tale of a king and a queen that wanted children, so they contracted an inventor to make a wooden robot, and a witch to make a log princess. All good, but here's the hitch: When the log princess falls asleep, she becomes a log, and the robot must wake her for her to become human again. One day, he is distracted, he fails to wake her, and a servant throws the log out the window, it rolls down a hill, gets taken to faraway lands, which sets up an adventurous rescue. I think the story and the number of words make this a three star book for me, but the artwork is five stars. There are a couple of pages of panels suggesting other adventures too many to recount. I thought that was weird, though maybe kids could write them? There is no reason to believe Gauld, a tongue-in-cheek ironic illustrator (he's done eight New Yorker covers) would make a picture book appealing for children, but it looks like he may have done it.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Betsy

    Tone. Can’t teach a writer how to make it. Can’t quite explain what it is or why one book’s tone will work while another’s falls flat. As a result, the facts of the mater are irrefutable: Tone is a bloody nuisance. You won’t necessarily notice its absence if the book you’re reading is toneless, but you’ll most certainly notice its presence if it’s done well in an unexpected source. Considering that this is Tom Gauld’s first picture book “for children” (or so his bookflap proclaims) my expectatio Tone. Can’t teach a writer how to make it. Can’t quite explain what it is or why one book’s tone will work while another’s falls flat. As a result, the facts of the mater are irrefutable: Tone is a bloody nuisance. You won’t necessarily notice its absence if the book you’re reading is toneless, but you’ll most certainly notice its presence if it’s done well in an unexpected source. Considering that this is Tom Gauld’s first picture book “for children” (or so his bookflap proclaims) my expectations were not particularly high or low. Certainly the artist has drawn adult comics and the occasional New Yorker cover, but that’s no guarantee that such skills will transfer over to children’s literature. Writing picture books is hard. Writing original picture book fairytales? Nigh unto near impossible a task. For it to work, the artist must be succinct, understand classic fairytale tropes (enough so that they can replicate them without overdoing them), and have that ineffable something: the right tone. What’s so crazy about Gauld’s book The Little Wooden Robot and the Log Princess is that not only does it check off all those boxes, it’s also dryly funny. Being beautiful to look at is simply icing on the cake. Smart fairytelling that’s tonally on point? More of this, please. Once upon a time there lived a king and a queen. They had no children, so the king consulted the royal inventor and was given a little wooden robot. The queen consulted a witch in the forest and was given a little princess made from a log. The two children were beloved and very close, but at night the princess would turn into a log when she slept. The robot always woke her in the morning… until he didn’t. Just one slip up and the two children found themselves on an epic journey. First away, then back again, and finally home with their parents once more. For fun, let’s just pick apart each fairytale element of this book. So you begin with the classic childless royal couple. It must have been very comforting to regular people in the old days to know that their rulers might be powerful, but that infertility is the great equalizer. Now at this point, usually one member of the couple will go out and find a solution, usually in the form of a magical person. What I like about having both the king and queen seek a solution is that they’re taking equal initiative. They don’t sit about passively waiting for a fairy to drop by and grant them a child. By gum they make their kids out of wood, one way or another, and then they’re a happy family of four. That done, we learn that the princess suffers from an uncontrolled transformation. Not into a stag or a frog or any animal at all, really. She turns into a log when she sleeps. We’re closer to Sylvester and the Magic Pebble territory than anything else here. And as with any good fairytale, the disaster is set into motion when the robot thinks only of its own happiness over that of its sister. Both robot and princess have a series of tiny adventures in the course of things, my own personal favorite being “The Baby in the Rosebush” since it sounds so doggone Grimm-esque. But the final, beautiful fairytale element I loved the most comes in the form of some tiny beetles. When all is lost, it is the kindness the robot exhibited towards the beetles that live in its chest that saves the day. The best thing about the combination of all these tropes is that while I can equate them to real, classic fairytales, everything Gauld has come up with is wholly his own. He is capable of taking the elements that work in folktales and applying them to his own story with his own sense of humor. And in a mere 40 pages at that! Now I’m just going to double back to that early statement I made about tone. You can take all the fairytale themes in the world but fall on your face tonally and they won’t do you a lick of good in the end. This book achieves something that many picture books cannot: It can be read, and read well, by almost every kind of reader. Do you know how difficult it is to achieve that? One might argue that the greatest picture books are the ones that achieve this aim. Just listen to the first sentence: “There once lived a king and queen who happily ruled a pleasant land, but they had no children.” I would pay great gobs of gold to see the original manuscript of this book. I would wager that it was wordier at its start. But with time (and excellent editing) it has been pared down to the most essential, most needed words. It is neither a particularly long book, nor short. It is as long as it needs to be to get to its ending, which is just about perfect. The sole distraction may be the rare Briticism. But as we get a goodly number of our fairytales out of Europe anyway, these moments (the puddings come to mind) have a tendency to roll off the proverbial American reader’s back. I’ve been trying to figure out the best way to describe Tom Gauld’s artistic style. The closest thing I can come up with is Ivan Brunetti mixed with the cross-hatching of a laid-back Sendak and just a tincture of Randall Munroe. I mean YOU try to explain it! Told in one word: Meticulous. But it’s also so seemingly simple that you could be tricked into thinking the art was just a series of slightly modified smiley faces. Look at the Wooden Robot and the Log Princess. They’re simple figures with just eyes and a mouth and the tiniest little hint of a nose on the Princess. Delve a little deeper, though, and you can see so many details in the margins. The royal inventor’s workshop is filled with bric-a-brac. The witch’s cottage is overflowing with ephemera. And once in a while in the book you’ll see a rune-like language in the details. The last, but perhaps most important, reason that this book works as well as it does is that it is the rare story that shows a happy family, uses a split in that family to provide the necessary tension, and concludes with a happy ending in the form of a reunion. Year’s ago author Arnold Lobel told a tale not dissimilar from this one called Prince Bertram the Bad. Like this book it ends with a kindly witch flying a missing child back to his royal parents. But unlike that book, no one in this book (that we officially meet anyway) is a bad sort of person. You might think that would make the book less exciting in some way, but what Mr. Gauld understands so well is that sometimes your luck just runs out. A crummy day, or a crummy set of circumstances, has all the same emotional heft as any marauding threat. With clever drawings, a firm foot in fairytale storytelling, and a plot unafraid to do the emotional lifting, this may be one of the best little picture books I’ve read in a good long while. A modern day classic, and I don’t use such terms lightly.

  3. 5 out of 5

    C. S.

    Illustrations were good; reminded me a little of the Hilda graphic novels. Wasn't much character development. Illustrations were good; reminded me a little of the Hilda graphic novels. Wasn't much character development.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Yune

    I'm a fan of Gauld's comics, which can be sly and deadpan, but also magical and wrenching ( Goliath still haunts me). So of course I had to see what he would do in a children's picture book. I was utterly charmed. When the otherwise happy royal couple long for children, the king visits an inventor and the queen a witch, and they end up with a little wooden robot boy and a little log princess.The king and the queen and the princess and the robot all loved each other instantly. The log princess w I'm a fan of Gauld's comics, which can be sly and deadpan, but also magical and wrenching ( Goliath still haunts me). So of course I had to see what he would do in a children's picture book. I was utterly charmed. When the otherwise happy royal couple long for children, the king visits an inventor and the queen a witch, and they end up with a little wooden robot boy and a little log princess.The king and the queen and the princess and the robot all loved each other instantly. The log princess was bold and clever, but she had a secret: each night when she fell asleep, she turned back into a log and would stay like that until she was woken by the magic words "Awake, little log, awake."Of course you can tell what happens when someone finds a log in the princess's chamber... As always, Gauld's art delights, and I was especially gleeful at his use of panels to illustrate a series of adventures, as that's a format I've often seen in his comics. And this is a warm-hearted story, where there isn't strife so much as just circumstance, but kindness and bravery are called for and win out all the same.

  5. 4 out of 5

    gina

    It's the size of a picture book but feels more like a early level graphic novel on some pages. My son (7) is anti picture book at this age but when he saw this one he immediately wanted to read it, I think because of its graphic novel picture style but also because of its art. I LOVE THE ART IN THIS BOOK. Make sure to pay close attention to the front and back inside covers. There are a lot of little items that are part of the story. Very entertaining just to look at! The art is gorgeous enough t It's the size of a picture book but feels more like a early level graphic novel on some pages. My son (7) is anti picture book at this age but when he saw this one he immediately wanted to read it, I think because of its graphic novel picture style but also because of its art. I LOVE THE ART IN THIS BOOK. Make sure to pay close attention to the front and back inside covers. There are a lot of little items that are part of the story. Very entertaining just to look at! The art is gorgeous enough to be framed. Much mom love to this book!

  6. 4 out of 5

    Monica

    Such fun!

  7. 5 out of 5

    Chris

    One of the best fairy tales I've read in a while, and it's a new, original one. One of the best fairy tales I've read in a while, and it's a new, original one.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Kris

    A fantastic and delightful fairytale gone wrong. This is sure to be a crowd pleaser as a read-aloud.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Shane Harcombe

    Absolutely charming modern fairytale. The story itself is quite simple, with themes of loyalty and kindness. The illustrations are old fashioned, charming and wonderful. One of the most interesting things I found were the "other adventures" the characters had which the author said there was no time to recount. What great writing prompts they would make for young readers! Absolutely charming modern fairytale. The story itself is quite simple, with themes of loyalty and kindness. The illustrations are old fashioned, charming and wonderful. One of the most interesting things I found were the "other adventures" the characters had which the author said there was no time to recount. What great writing prompts they would make for young readers!

  10. 4 out of 5

    Bruce

    A king and a queen who lack only children to make their happiness complete, each take the initiative to rectify the situation. The king goes to the royal inventor and requests a boy robot. The inventor creates one out of wood. The queen goes to a wise old witch and asks her for a girl. The witch enchants a log to create a princess. The two wooden siblings and their parents all “loved each other instantly.” However, each night when the princess falls asleep, she turns back into a log. But each mo A king and a queen who lack only children to make their happiness complete, each take the initiative to rectify the situation. The king goes to the royal inventor and requests a boy robot. The inventor creates one out of wood. The queen goes to a wise old witch and asks her for a girl. The witch enchants a log to create a princess. The two wooden siblings and their parents all “loved each other instantly.” However, each night when the princess falls asleep, she turns back into a log. But each morning her robot brother recites the magic words, “Awake, little log, awake,” and then she awakens again a perfect princess. Alas, one morning excited to find a traveling circus in the courtyard. Excited the prince rushes downstairs to see it. Alack, when he returns to wake his sister, her bed is empty. An uninformed maid has thrown the log out the window, not recognizing that this was the sleeping princess. The log has rolled down the hill and been picked up by a passing goblin who adds it to his pile of logs that he sells to a ship sailing north with a load of timber. By the time the prince catches up to her the log princess she is mixed up with the rest of the pile of logs on the ship. and he must travel to the north until journey’s end to sort through the pile to find the log that’s his sister. Then they must make the long walk home, which is a trek filled with trials and adventures for both of them. Gauld’s distinctive style, with lines as distinctive as those of Hergé, and his compact pictorial wit make this fairy tale a gentle delight to read, view, savor, and read aloud to children.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Mathew

    Dipping into fairy tale tropes galore and sprinkling them with a gentle touch of goodness, Gauld tells the story of a Wooden Robot and a Log Princess, destined to be siblings who will love and cherish one another no matter the obstacle. A king. A queen. A desperate need for a child. Solution? The King visits the royal inventor and the Queen, the clever old witch. Both tasked with the creation of a child, they create and magic of their own and thus our protagonists are born. The Princess though, Dipping into fairy tale tropes galore and sprinkling them with a gentle touch of goodness, Gauld tells the story of a Wooden Robot and a Log Princess, destined to be siblings who will love and cherish one another no matter the obstacle. A king. A queen. A desperate need for a child. Solution? The King visits the royal inventor and the Queen, the clever old witch. Both tasked with the creation of a child, they create and magic of their own and thus our protagonists are born. The Princess though, much like many fairy-tale characters, is touched with a magical curse which means that at night she is fated to turn into a log. And in a brief moment when she is forgotten, the Princess is mistakenly swept away with a boat-load of logs for sale across the water. For not though for her brother is nothing but loyal and seeks out to find and rescue her. So begins this beautiful little graphic novel in which the Princess and Robot, through determination and love seek to bring one another back home safely. On the way, they encounter all sorts of challenges but overcome them for the love of their sibling. Throughout, Gauld gives nods aplenty to older stories - both fairy tale and picturebook and the story is pitched for adults and children to enjoy alike: as all great children's books are.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Jamie Bills

    This is a WONDERFUL new fairytale! In the story, the king and queen do not have any children, so one night the king visits the royal inventor who crafts a masterful wooden robot. At the same time, the queen visits a witch who uses her magic to turn a log into a little princess. “The king and the queen and the princess and the robot all loved each other instantly.” But the princess had a secret: every night she turned back into a log and could only be woken by the words, “Awake, little log, awake.” I This is a WONDERFUL new fairytale! In the story, the king and queen do not have any children, so one night the king visits the royal inventor who crafts a masterful wooden robot. At the same time, the queen visits a witch who uses her magic to turn a log into a little princess. “The king and the queen and the princess and the robot all loved each other instantly.” But the princess had a secret: every night she turned back into a log and could only be woken by the words, “Awake, little log, awake.” It usually wasn’t a problem. The wooden robot woke her every morning and they played all day. But one day the wooden robot got distracted, which set off a chain of events resulting in a goblin throwing the princess (who looked like an ordinary log) into a barge with hundreds of other logs. This sparks the wooden robot’s quest to save his sister. THE LITTLE WOODEN ROBOT AND THE LOG PRINCESS is so FULL of FUN and ADVENTURE, twelve adventures only have space to be hinted at (maybe my favorite pages…I would really like to hear more about “The Baby in the Rosebush” :)). With strong themes of sibling devotion and kindness, I can’t recommend this book highly enough!

  13. 5 out of 5

    Carmen

    Thank you to Penguin Random House Canada for sending me a gifted copy of The Little Wooden Robot and the Log Princess. Such a sweet and charming fairy tale about a little wooden robot and a log princess - the loveliest of siblings. This story was filled with adorable characters, including a beetle family that resides within the little wooden robot. My favourite part would have to be the snippets of the adventures that the little wooden robot had and then the log princess had. I would love to see Thank you to Penguin Random House Canada for sending me a gifted copy of The Little Wooden Robot and the Log Princess. Such a sweet and charming fairy tale about a little wooden robot and a log princess - the loveliest of siblings. This story was filled with adorable characters, including a beetle family that resides within the little wooden robot. My favourite part would have to be the snippets of the adventures that the little wooden robot had and then the log princess had. I would love to see more picture books that showed exactly what happened on those adventures. In particular, the Giant’s Key, the Lonely Bear, the Mischievous Pixies and the Baby in a Rosebush. Don’t those titles already sound so intriguing? Such magic and fantastic imagination from within this world in this picture book. Readers are sure to fall in love with both the wooden little robot and the log princess in this charming new fairytale.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Sandy Brehl

    From the endpapers to the interior spreads to the structure of this imaginative offering, I felt like I was a child again, longer ago than you can imagine. The seemingly simple story moves along at a steady but engaging clip, provides balanced time and heroic center-stage status to both the brother and the sister, allows each to showcase a single-page series of titles adventures as if chapters or potential other stories for kids to imagine (or write) for themselves. A fun offering that hit me mor From the endpapers to the interior spreads to the structure of this imaginative offering, I felt like I was a child again, longer ago than you can imagine. The seemingly simple story moves along at a steady but engaging clip, provides balanced time and heroic center-stage status to both the brother and the sister, allows each to showcase a single-page series of titles adventures as if chapters or potential other stories for kids to imagine (or write) for themselves. A fun offering that hit me more on the nostalgic side, but I've been reading rave reviews by others, so be sure to give it a close look and read. My favorite: the resident bugs in the wooden-robot brother.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Edie

    The charm of this book is in the illustrations and the very straightforward telling about love, that causes parents to seek alternative children (a little wooden robot, a log princess) and then causes those two odd siblings to sacrifice for each other because of a mishap. Gauld also points out the adventures that we don't hear about (but think of how we can imaine them), reminding us that every detail of a story doesn't have to be told, especially if you have already created such an imaginative The charm of this book is in the illustrations and the very straightforward telling about love, that causes parents to seek alternative children (a little wooden robot, a log princess) and then causes those two odd siblings to sacrifice for each other because of a mishap. Gauld also points out the adventures that we don't hear about (but think of how we can imaine them), reminding us that every detail of a story doesn't have to be told, especially if you have already created such an imaginative world to be immersed in. Great on all levels.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Clmelvin60gmail.Com

    Very cute picture book about two very different “children” of a King and Queen. One a robot and the other a princess who returned to her original state when she slept, who love each other despite their differences and would do anything for the other. This comes into play when a maid unknowingly tosses the princess out a window. Known for his graphic novels, this is Gauld’s first picture book for children. I hope we see more soon.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Rebecca Hill

    When his sister goes missing, the Little Wooden Robot goes in search of her. During their adventure of returning home, they must rely on each other to make it safely back. I enjoyed this story, as it was a great lesson in working together, and friendship - with some adventure along the way! Perfect for young readers!

  18. 4 out of 5

    S Egli

    A new fairytale to hand to our teachers and an aspiring prince or princess. The Little Wooden Robot and the Log Princess skillfully weaves themes of teamwork, self sacrifice, and family throughout the adventure. The end pages alone will be a hit!

  19. 5 out of 5

    Francis S. Poesy

    A sweet and funny first picture book from this king of understated humor. The story and his richly populated illustrations do not disappoint. Now I just need him to write all the adventures mentioned in the book that were too long to include (which in itself was a very funny bit).

  20. 5 out of 5

    Karen

    An utterly delightful book. Now I want him to write another 12 telling us what happens in the adventures mentioned in passing but that were too many to recount e.g the robot's encounter with the Queen of Mushrooms. There can never be too many Tom Gauld books in the world. An utterly delightful book. Now I want him to write another 12 telling us what happens in the adventures mentioned in passing but that were too many to recount e.g the robot's encounter with the Queen of Mushrooms. There can never be too many Tom Gauld books in the world.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Andréa

    Note: I accessed a digital review copy of this book through Edelweiss.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Sarah

    EARC provided by Edelweiss Plus This is a great read aloud choice- there is so much to notice in the illustrations, and the text reads exactly like a traditional fairy tale.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Alex Baker

    This was just adorable...

  24. 5 out of 5

    Aurora

    It was cute! Might be a good book for young siblings.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Peacegal

    A delightfully written modern fairy tale. The story is big-hearted and entertaining, and the illustrations are a joy to look at.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Kayla

    Love this new fairytale, reminds me a lot of the quirky, adventurous, nature based Hilda series.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Tabrizia

    Very adorable! A nice and different spin on a fairytale!

  28. 5 out of 5

    Katrina

    Sweet little adventure.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Beverly

    Reading for the Mock Caldecott Awards for January 2022.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Lea

    Aaah, what a lovely tale written and illustrated by Gauld. I've been a fan before, but I like this even more. ^_^ Aaah, what a lovely tale written and illustrated by Gauld. I've been a fan before, but I like this even more. ^_^

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