Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Kitschy art brightens a tired tale that begins as Mom delivers a classic ultimatum: Phil can't leave the dinner table until he finishes his vegetables. "I hate vegetables!" the boy exclaims, sticking out his tongue with displeasure. "I bet if I had a robot he would eat those vegetables at my command!" Thrilled by that possibility, he imagines a series of wide-bodied, fearsome robots that willingly do his homework, feed the dog and attend school in his place ("Why, he could even kiss my Aunt Louise!"). Yaccarino (Carnival; Bam Bam Bam) punctuates nearly every statement with "Hey!," "Boy!" and even "Yessiree!" This approach mildly juices up Phil's narration, but the volume's main appeal comes from the quirky sci-fi illustrations. Yaccarino's characters appear distorted, as if seen through a fish-eye lens; the narrator's smile stretches across his oblong face toward his tiny ears. The hulking robots, painted in simple red, blue, purple or green, have stiff tin-can shapes and obedient personalities straight out of a 1950s B-movie. Ages 2-7. (Sept.)
Children's Literature - C. Darren Butler
The story begins with a little boy, Phil, wishing he had someone to help him eat his vegetables. This launches him into a spree of imagination about having a robot to help him eat cauliflower and brussels sprouts, to take his bath, to practice the piano, to do his chores and studying, to go to school, and even to kiss Aunt Louise. Wish fulfillment has always been popular as subject matter in literature for both children and adults, and for good reason. How wonderful and fun it would be to have a big, strong, powerful, impervious self at one's command. The target audience for the book is clearly young children; illustrations are composed of large, vibrant areas of primary and secondary colors, in simple shapes, with little or no detail. The robot changes with each set of pages; my favorites were the robot wearing a baseball cap and the towering robot who makes the boy king of the world. The simplicity of the story and illustrations give the book a gracefulness that can be enjoyed by both children and adults. A simple but penetrating psychological scenario is presented in the boy's fantasizing, one that would be disturbing were it left unchecked before the reader. Narrative is the vehicle by which a culture imparts its values; this story implicitly teaches that happiness is found through gaining power. That message is briefly counterbalanced at the end, when Yaccarino predictably provides a reaffirmation of the boy's true, flesh-and-blood self. Recommended for young children, and anyone who likes robots.
School Library Journal
Gr 1-3Ordered to finish his brussels sprouts, a nauseated Phil wishes he had a robot to do the deed. Come to think of it, the robot could take his bath, do his homework, make him king of the playground, and even master of the universe! Yaccarino's illustrations are slightly rougher and paler than those in Eve Merriam's Bam, Bam, Bam (Holt, 1995), but just as visually emphatic, featuring large areas of a single color with supple, curved borders, plus a succession of stylized robots that look like towering water heaters. The promise of dessert as a reward brings Phil back to Earth in a hurry: "Like I always say, if you want something done right, you've got to do it yourself!" he proclaims grandly, chowing down on a huge piece of cake. The boy's flight of fancy may be less imaginative (and gross) than that of Henrik Drescher's The Little Boy Who Ate Around (Hyperion, 1994), but it should nonetheless please any child faced with a similarly unpleasant chore.John Peters, New York Public Library
Rather than eat his vegetables, Phil conjures up an imaginary robot to do it for him. Automation proves seductive. As Phil expands his daydream so that the robotat first the size of a large cardboard boxnot only gobbles lima beans, but takes Phil's bath for him and handles chores, the chunky, retro-looking automaton also grows. No longer a work drone, the mechanical man is now "an enforcer." Phil's daydream takes on despotic proportions"I could be king of the world, master of the universe!"as he peers up at his gigantic buddy, only to be interrupted by his mother's prosaic, yet enticing, suggestion, "Whoever eats their vegetables gets chocolate cake for dessert." Phil puts aside his dreams of world domination, helping himself to cake as he concludes, "If you want something done right, you've got to do it yourself."
The fantasy becomes very large, but the yearnings never leave the realm of real childhood concerns. Yaccarino (Big Brother Mike, 1992, etc.) uses the artwork, printed on matte paper, to reiterate his materialist conclusion, by subtly grounding Phil's fanciful imaginings in rotund, weighted images.