I didn’t even know Tom Gauld had written a children’s book! This is his first of hopefully many, especially given the delightful allusions peppered throughout this volume to the title characters’ adventures while on their epic journey.
Once upon a time, a king and queen lived happily but for the fact that they had no children. My eldest child, who was reading this with me, asked, “So why didn’t they just do a funny?” (that being what his circle of friends apparently calls sex nowadays. Twelve year olds, y’all.) I had to explain to him that not all sex leads to pregnancies or subsequent childbirth, tho many of them do, so point one to the book for helping introduce that concept.
Anyway, the king turns to an inventor and the queen to a witch, and next thing you know, they have a wooden robot and a log princess for children. And everyone is very happy and loving and kind. But the princess has a secret: every time she falls asleep, she turns into a log who can only be awoken with a certain phrase. Usually, it’s the robot’s job to wake his sister so they can spend the day playing. Alas, he gets distracted by the circus coming to town one morning. When he remembers to go wake the princess, he finds that an oblivious maid has tossed her out the window. The robot goes chasing after, but will he able to recover his sister and bring her home?
This was an utterly heartwarming children’s tale that feels fresh and wholly appropriate to modern readers, eschewing expected tropes and sidestepping problematic themes of traditional fairy tales. It was absolutely lovely to see brother and sister rescue each other and be consistently kind to and considerate of one another, a lesson I’m one hundred percent hoping to impart to my squabbling kids. My eldest liked the beetles best of all the book, and I hope he takes their example of kindness begetting kindness to heart.
And oh, the art! I know Mr Gauld originally from his excellent work in The Guardian, but his particular style is on glorious display here, with full color spreads, ingenious layouts, deep textures and just a warmth overall that can occasionally seem absent from his shorter-form cartoons. I’ve previously been a fan of his as a cartoonist, but now I can confidently say that I’m a fan of his as an artist. It might seem like an odd differentiation, but the amount of work put into the art for this book feels far in excess — and exquisiteness — of his weekly strips for The Guardian.
This book is a beautiful package for fairy tale enjoyers of all ages, and for anyone who enjoys whimsical art with a heartwarming story. I’m only sorry it took me so long to discover that this book exists.
The Little Wooden Robot And The Log Princess by Tom Gauld was published August 24 2021 by Neal Porter Books and is available from all good booksellers, including