Posted in Non-Fiction, Tween Reads

Helaine Becker’s Zoobots – The Future is Now, and there are robot snakes!

zoobotsZoobots: Wild Robots Inspired by Real Animals, by Helaine Becker/illustrated by Alex Ries. Kids Can Press (2014), $17.95, ISBN: 9781554539710

Recommended for ages 8-12

Robot Snakes. That’s the first thing that jumped out at me when I saw the cover of this book on NetGalley, and I knew that not only would my 10 year-old love this book, but so would every 10 year-old in the several library sites I oversee. That is the kind of book Zoobots is – it’s a win-win situation. You have robot animals, complete with facts about the functions and statistics on the robotic creatures, plus profiles on the animals influencing them; you also have the nonfiction aspect, which makes it compatible with Common Core focus on nonfiction texts, with the extra STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics) appeal that will hopefully inspire a reader or 3 to become a scientist and actually work with these robots.

Helaine Becker’s text is chunked into a dossier-type format, complete with futuristic fonts. We get the name of the robot – some include the Shrewbot, the Octobot, the Ghostbot, and the Nanobot – and what class of animal its influence belongs to (i.e., mammalia, reptilia). There are skills, specifications, and applications: the growing number of robotics dedicated to the medical industry alone is amazing, as is the idea of using pill bug-inspired robots to help prevent raging forest fires. Special Ops describes special talents these robots can use while in the field; my favorite is the Uncle Sam snake robot, who can actually assemble itself!

There is no science fiction here – all of the 12 robot animals profiled are in some sort of prototype stage, whether being developed or in existence. A section on the future wonders what further robots future minds will create, which I hope spurs some readers to start sketching and joining robotics teams. There is a glossary of terms and a full index.

I loved this book, and think it belongs in libraries and science classes throughout elementary and middle schools. The illustrations, by concept artist and illustrator Alex Ries, give life to the robotics, spotlighting their flexibility and their features. The book is only 36 pages, but the number of lesson plans and ideas that can come out of this? Boundless.


I'm a mom, a children's librarian, bibliophile, and obsessive knitter. I'm a pop culture junkie and a proud nerd, and favorite reads usually fall into Sci-Fi/Fantasy. I review comics and graphic novels at WhatchaReading ( I'm also the co-founder of On Wednesdays We Wear Capes (, where I discuss pop culture and geek fandom from a female point of view.

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