Flashback Fridays:My Buddy and Me . . .
Posted by Stephanie Whelan
Quick note: Hi folks I’m sans Internet most of my free time for the next week or so. I’ll be doing these posts on my lunch breaks, so please be patient with typos and link errors until I get back in gear again! I’m dropping this online a day early, since I won’t be able to access the Internet at all tomorrow! Enjoy!
So. You’re an only child. You’re desperate for a friend, someone who you can have fun with, get into trouble with, share your troubles with. Congrats! You live a future where you don’t have to struggle to make a friend–a factory can build one for you!
Do you remember?
My Robot Buddy by Alfred Slote (Avon Camelot, c1975)
Jack’s desire for a friend and a brother leads his parents to getting him a robot buddy, Danny. Danny can do everything Jack can do, except–strangely enough–bend his knees. Jack and Danny are best of friends, but with nefarious robot snatchers in town, no robot buddy is safe!
Now I want you think for a moment about science fiction for young readers. Stuff for second and third grade readers that’s simple enough for them to work through, but entertaining enough and still true science fiction. Can you come up with many titles? Chances are not. Most of them are probably humorous stories with aliens or extremely wacky inventions rather than future-set stories. I read this book when I was a kid. I re-read this book a dozen times. I looked for it as an adult.
I’m not about to tell you it’s the most brilliant thing ever written. But to find something written for that age that isn’t complete mush or silliness and has managed to last for decades on the shelves of the children’s floor means it’s something special. It’s gotten a little ignored lately–but I still have a great deal of fondness for the adventures of Jack and Danny.
If you remember this title, did you know that Jack and Danny had a series of adventures? It seems there were four in all.
C.O.L.A.R. : A Tale of Outer Space (1981) in which the whole Jameson family lands on a planet after running out of fuel to find a band of rebel robots (if I’m remembering it properly). It’s up to Danny to rescue them!
Omega Station(1986) I’m not entirely sure whether this was meant as the third or fourth book (I’ve read conflicting reviews and haven’t the books to refer to to confirm). In this story, Jack and Danny wind up on a space station confronting an evil mad scientist.
The Trouble on Janus(1985) I remember this one being a lot of fun. The boys are off to a planet where the young ruler (who looks remarkably like Danny) is being threatened by those who wish to take the throne. A game of mistaken identity and conspiracy leads to an exciting conclusion for all involved.
There’s another title that I’ve seen included in the series. And it does have a main character named Jack–but I see no mention of Danny, nor does the story seem to follow their narrative. I can’t be sure of course without rereading.
My Trip To Alpha I (1978) This involves a boy named Jack who goes to visit his aunt, only to find that things are not quite right with his aunt and scheming villains may be involved. Inventive and fun–but I don’t know that it’s part of the same series.
Just a shout out for the author, Alfred Slote who did an awfully huge service of helping get this gal into science fiction. I loved all these books, as well as his book Clone Catcher (1982) Which gave me quite a bit to think about in my early years of reading about the implications of cloning.
People may knock these books as not being “literary” or complex enough for their tastes, but in my opinion, they are exactly right for the audience they’re intended to reach. I don’t know if many of them hold up today, as technology marches on, but I still hope to introduce my kids to these in a handful of years.
About Stephanie WhelanI'm a children's librarian with a life-long love of all things science fiction and fantasy.
Posted on July 18, 2013, in Flashback Fridays, General Posts and tagged Authors, Books, Children's Books, Children's Literature, literature, MG Books, Middle-Grade Fiction, Reading, Robots, Science Fiction, series. Bookmark the permalink. 4 Comments.