by Peter Brown
Can a robot survive in the wilderness?
That’s the question that led me to create my first children’s novel, The Wild Robot. I wanted to imagine how an intelligent robot might adapt to life in the wilderness, and what she might learn from nature, and how she might survive the rugged terrain and the violent weather and the wild creatures. Eventually, after years of researching and thinking and writing and illustrating, I completed The Wild Robot, in which a robot named Roz finds herself stranded on a remote island, and to survive she studies and mimics the animals who live there. Along the way, Roz ends up learning how to communicate with the animals, and she gradually becomes wilder and more natural than a person ever could.
But I had more ideas for Roz. After imagining how Roz would survive in the wilderness, I wondered how she would survive in civilization, with humans and cities and other robots. So, I got back to work, writing and illustrating The Wild Robot Escapes. This time, we see how Roz navigates the world of humans as she tries to make her way back to her wild island home.
But I had even more ideas for Roz. After telling the story of how Roz made a home for herself in the wild, and then telling the story of how Roz tried to escape the human world and return to her home, I wanted to tell the story of how Roz might protect her home. So, I got back to work, once again, writing and illustrating The Wild Robot Protects, in which Roz goes to extraordinary lengths to protect her home from a mysterious form of toxic pollution that begins flowing through the ocean and onto the shores of her island.
It’s been the highlight of my career to see the incredible response to the Wild Robot series. Entire schools are reading the books at the same time, and then doing science projects and art projects and writing projects that tie into the story. Readers from all around the world send me letters and drawings and suggestions for future Wild Robot books. There will even be a feature animated movie of The Wild Robot released sometime next year.
I receive a great many questions from readers, but over the years I’ve noticed that many of the same questions get asked, again and again. I thought I’d use this opportunity to share with you the most asked questions about the Wild Robot series, and then provide my answers.
Common Questions about the Wild Robot series
What inspired you to make The Wild Robot?
This all started with a little drawing I made of a robot in a tree. I don’t know why I drew that picture, but I couldn’t stop thinking about it, and strange questions began popping into my mind. Why would a robot be in a tree? How would a robot react to the wilderness? What would a wild animal think of a robot? The questions kept coming, and before long I realized I had the ingredients for a children’s novel.
Are there robots like Roz in the real world?
Not yet, but someday. Already, scientists are using specialized robots to study animal communication. Artificial intelligence is being developed to enable robots to be incredibly intelligent. Engineers are working on how to make robots that can move through complicated environments. Eventually, all the various technologies will be combined into robots that can think and move like Roz.
What kind of research did you do while creating the Wild Robot series?
I read a lot of non-fiction books on subjects ranging from robotics and artificial intelligence to ecology and animal behavior. I watched many documentary films, mostly about wild animals and their wild habitats. I visited robot laboratories that are developing robots for all kinds of purposes. I also studied fiction, especially science fiction. Since I was new to writing science-fiction, I thought I might find it helpful to study excellent stories that take place in the future or that involve robot characters.
Why is Roz female?
Technically, robots are machines, which means they aren’t male or female, and in the first draft of The Wild Robot, Roz was an “it.” However, I had trouble connecting with Roz when she was an “it,” and I worried that readers might struggle to connect with her, too. The English language only gave me two other options. Roz either had to be a “he” or a “she.” I looked at Roz’s personality and her life story and the way others saw her, and I decided to make Roz a “she.” Immediately, lots of little problems throughout the story just seemed to fade away, and I realized that making Roz a female was absolutely the right decision. Plus, you don’t see many female robots in popular culture, and I thought I might as well try to change that.
Of all the animals Roz could have adopted, why did you choose a goose?
Certain birds, including geese, have an instinct known as “imprinting,” which means that they bond with whomever is caring for them when they hatch from their eggs. Plenty of scientists take advantage of this instinct, and they make sure to be there when eggs hatch, so the little hatchlings will imprint upon them. This makes studying those birds much easier. I thought, if a goose could imprint on a person, maybe a goose could imprint on a robot. But geese have another important instinct, which is that they fly south to warmer climates for winter, and then they fly north to cooler climates for summer. I thought it would add an interesting tension to the story when Roz must stay on the island while her son, Brightbill, flies south for winter.
What happens in The Wild Robot Protects?
Anyone who reads the news knows that our planet is facing a wide range of problems, from rising temperatures to intensifying storms to melting ice caps. Roz, the wild robot, cares deeply about the wilderness and about all the natural world, and when an environmental crisis comes to her home, she goes on an epic journey to the far north, to stop the problem and save her friends and her family and her home.
How many Wild Robot books will you make?
I don’t know, but I love Roz and her story world so much that most likely I’ll write another Wild Robot book, eventually. However, I’m a very slow writer, so it might be a few years before a fourth book comes out. For now, I hope you’ll enjoy The Wild Robot, The Wild Robot Escapes, and the newest installment, The Wild Robot Protects.