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This is right up the alley of any kid who loves aliens, robots, creating, or having adventures. So, anybody, basically. Certainly that counts my 5-year-old, Dan, in for the full set.
Our hero Sam knows that robots exist – in fact, he knows that there is an alien race of robots on another planet somewhere nearby. His parents don’t believe him – not even his dog does. He has a robot-filled room, and nobody to play with them with: so he creates someone to play with.
Not just in his mind, no siree – he actually creates a robot. He fixes together a vacuum cleaner, a rake, an old transistor radio, a reading lamp and a pair of pliers, and he has a bona fide, rolling, playing, talking robot play friend. Their friendship weathers Sam’s need to disguise and hide his playmate in front of his parents, through adventures with water guns, pretty much the most awesome sandcastle ever, until one day, Franky is quieter than usual. He is looking out the window for something.
Leo Timmers is one of my favourite author/illustrators from the off-shore Gecko Press stable, and I was very lucky to meet him at the 2014 NZ Festival Writer’s Week. His book The Magical Life of Mr. Renny is one that Dan seeks out again and again when he wants to hear and see magical moments on paper, and Franky seems destined to be another. The main element that he engaged with in Franky was the creation of a friend. He was dismayed we didn’t have the right type of old-fashioned Electrolux, but we made do with a plastic bucket, a vacuum cleaner top, and something to hold both in place.
Dan was amazed that the robots that came down in the eventual UFO were so similar to Franky, and he was delighted that Franky could go off with his people, and that his parents had to believe in robots at the end. The final page is just perfect, and Dan and I both laughed at the little mole finding the tree in a love-heart shape. I recommend this for anybody who enjoys a well-crafted, sharply illustrated picture book for a child of any age.
Reviewed by Sarah Forster
by Leo Timmers
Published by Gecko Press