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Recommended robot-related titles to complement the Science Museum's new exhibition

Written by · Published Feb 7, 2017

Robot Rumpus, The Stepford Wives, Rise of the Robots

To mark the opening of the Science Museum’s major new Robots exhibition, as well as the beginning of the Radio 4 series The Rise of the Robots, we’ve picked out a selection of great books for all ages that feature robots.

Ever wondered why they’re called ‘robots’? Czech playwright Karel Čapek coined the word from the Czech verb ‘robota’, ‘to work’.

This list was compiled with the help of Lakenheath Library manager Chris Howard and information and content librarian Lisa Brennan.

Board books

The Robot Book, by Heather Brown

“This robot has two eyes, two arms, and two legs, but what really makes him tick? Inside The Robot Book, Heather Brown answers that question within an interactive story that features actual working - and moving - parts.”

Picture books

Astro the Robot Dog, by Clare Freedman

“Astro is a robot dog with a big heart. In this picture book by the author of Aliens Love Underpants, he is sent from Planet Xog to find out what life is like on Earth, and discovers the true meaning of friendship.”

No-bot: the robot with no bottom!, by Sue Hendra

“Bernard the robot loses his bottom on the park swing, and sets off to find it. Every time he gets close, it disappears again! Bird was using it as a nest, but it was too heavy; Bear used it in his drum kit, but it was too tinny; the squirrels built sandcastles with it - and now it looks as if they’re sailing away in it. Will Bernard ever get his bottom back?”

Norton and Alpha, by Kristyna Litten

“Norton the Robot is intrigued by his discovery of a lone flower one day and sets about trying to care for it, with amusing and ultimately poignant results. A new book from the acclaimed creator of Blue & Bertie, Kristyna Litten, about making friends, appreciating the wonder of nature, and seeing that sometimes there is more to life than it might seem.”

The Robot and the Bluebird, by David Lucas

“There was once a robot with a broken heart, good for nothing but expiring slowly on a scrap heap. Then one winter’s day a migrating bluebird lands on his shoulder. The robot offers her shelter in the place where his heart used to be and her warmth and companionship stir up the last glimmer of energy the robot has.”

Robot Rumpus!, by Sean Taylor

“When mum and dad go out for the evening they think they’ve left their daughter in safe hands with robots designed to get her to bed. There’s Cook-bot to make great spaghetti for dinner, Clean-bot to do the washing-up, Wash-bot for bath time and even Book-bot for a bedtime story. What could possibly go wrong?”

The Big Bad Robot, by Valerie Thomas

“When Winnie makes a cardboard robot she is very proud of her creation and decides to turn it into a real robot. BIG mistake! Winnie and Wilbur soon discover that the Big Bad Robot is trouble, especially when it gets hold of Winnie’s magic wand. Join Winnie and Wilbur on a robotic rollercoaster of a story!”

Winnie gets more then she bargains for when she unintentionally makes a robot in an art class at the library, but Wilbur saves the day.

Harry and the Robots, by Ian Whybrow & Adrian Reynolds

“When Harry’s toy robot stops marching, he sends it to the robot hospital to be fixed. Harry and Nan decide to make their own robots to play with while they wait for it to return. But before they can start, Nan is taken to hospital herself.”

Short chapter books

Robot Girl, by Malorie Blackman

“Claire is keen to find out what her dad has been working on in his lab. He’s been really excited about it and Claire knows it must be something that will make him even more famous. But the big reveal isn’t at all what she expected and now Claire has a dilemma on her hands - what do you do when your dad has created a monster?”

Robot Riot, by Tim Healey & Chris Mould

“Mortimer Keene is full to bursting with madcap plans, and if it’s trouble you’re after, look no further! With laugh-out-loud illustrations, rollicking rhymes, and short chapters perfect for new readers. Mortimer Keene has made a robot! Several, in fact. And they’re all being helpful around the school. Until Robo-13 goes haywire and hacks into the Robot Control system.”

The Robodog and the Big Dig, by Frank Rodgers

“Chip, the robodog, is fed up when no one will take him for a walk. He thinks it might be more fun to be a cat and he confuses everyone by beginning to behave like one. This causes chaos but will he remember how to be a dog?”

Junior novels

School Shutdown, by Judy Brown

“Archie the cat, Sparky the mouse and Flo the bird have found a new home in a school, and can’t resist helping out by using their special robot skills. They have to do it in secret though, so none of the adults find out! When one of the children they have befriended accidentally causes a school computer to break, Archie promises to fix the problem. But soon Archie starts to behave strangely. What’s got into him? It’s almost as if his programming has gone haywire! The Petbots realise he has downloaded a virus, and it’s up to Flo, Sparky and their new human friends to work out a cure before Archie shuts down for good!”

There are 3 titles in the Petbots series, and 3 robots who star in them all: Archie the cat, Sparky the mouse and Flo the bird. Their chaotic adventures are the perfect read for children moving on from short chapters to slightly longer reads. This is the second title in the series.

Cogheart, by Peter Bunzl

After the mysterious disappearance of her inventor father, Lily travels to London to uncover the truth. Featuring life-like clockwork animals called “mechanicals”, a cast of well-drawn characters and faux Victorian steampunk inventions galore, this is a brilliant read. It’s a corker of a book, a rip-roaring adventure and we hope someone makes it into a film.

The Iron Man, by Ted Hughes

“A clanking iron giant topples from a cliff and lies smashed on the rocks below. Then his various parts begin to stir and reach out for one another. The Iron Man is ready to walk again, and he is very hungry.”

Clash of the Rival Robots

“The Steampunk Pirates are lured back to England by the promise of gold. But when their inventor Mr Richmond Swift appears on the scene, sparks begin to fly!”

This is the third rollicking book relating the adventures of the Steampunk Pirates.

The Everything Machine, by Ali Kennen

“Eleven-year-old Olly has a very special delivery - a 3D printing machine, stamped with PROPERTY OF M.O.D and BRITISH SPACE AGENCY. WARNING. DO NOT TAMPER, which has magical powers. It has a name, it speaks, and it can print ANYTHING Olly asks it to - a never-ending supply of sweets, a swimming pool in the shed - but what Olly really wants is his dad, who has separated from his mum and moved out of the family home. Cue the creation of Dad-Bot - he looks just like Dad (on a good day) but is totally chaotic - and his antics tip Olly and co into a heart-racing and heart-warming adventure!”

The Mouse and his Child, by Russell Hoban

Published in 1967, this classic allegorical tale about mechanical toys tells of their struggles through a hostile world and their quest to become self-winding. It features some memorable characters such as Manny Rat, the ruthless amoral villain, a fortunetelling frog who preys on the gullible and a troupe of travelling rooks called The Caws of Art. If you haven’t come across it before, give it a try but don’t be deluded by the gentle cover. It’s quite a read.

Robot Revolution, by James Patterson

“After a few early glitches in their relationship, Sammy and his ‘bro-bot’ E are now best friends. In fact, E is such a valued member of the family that the other electronic members of the House of Robots are feeling sorely unappreciated. And when Sammy’s inventor mum becomes distracted by a top-secret project, the robots soon begin to fall into disrepair.

“Cue a robot revolt, with the droids wreaking harmless havoc in the house! Armed with pranks like glue in the shampoo bottles and flying toast missiles, the robots demand to be cared for. It’s up to Sammy and his disabled sister Maddie to keep the peace until his mum reveals her secret project and why it was worth the wait.”

Cakes in Space, by Philip Reeve & Sarah McIntyre

“Astra’s ship is in trouble. There’s something very sinister lurking in the canteen. A cakey monstrosity on the war path. And then there’s the Poglites - a space salvage crew who have invaded the ship in their quest for spoonage! Astra and her robot friend Pilbeam are the only things standing in the way of the ship’s destruction!”

Frank Einstein and the Antimatter Motor, by Jon Scieszka & Brian Biggs

“Frank is a kid genius who loves figuring out how the world works by creating household contraptions that are part science, part imagination, and definitely unusual. After an uneventful experiment with a garage-lab artificially intelligent RoboBug, a lightning storm, and a flash of electricity, Frank’s inventions - the robots Klink and Klank - suddenly come to life.

“Not exactly the ideal lab partners, the wise-cracking Klink and the overly expressive Klank are a help nonetheless as Frank attempts to perfect his Dark Energy Drive - that is until Frank’s arch nemesis, T. Edison, steals Klink and Klank for his evil doomsday plan!”

Picture books for older readers

The Building Boy, by Ross Montgomery

“When the boy’s grandma dies, he finds all of her old building materials in the garden shed - the girders and cement and bricks. At night, through wind, snow and rain, he builds a structure in the garden. A giant iron woman with soft tissue hands. And when he’s finished, she comes to life! Her giant hands swoop down and scoop the boy off the ground. The adventure begins!”

Junior non fiction

How to Draw Mecha Robots, by Mark Bergin

This book teaches you how to draw a variety of futuristic robots and machines with step-by-step instructions for a variety of drawing materials including pencil, pen, crayon, paints and charcoal. Build up to creating sci-fi and fantasy scenes featuring the figures you’ve learned to draw.

Gadgets, Games, Robots and the Digital World: what are you wired up to?, by Clive Gifford

“What are you wired up to? Every day you text, tweet, stream songs, watch videos and send emails and this is the book to tell you how. Readers can discover the techonology behind it all, from robots under the sea, to satellites in space and even the inside of your laptop.”

iRobot, by Clive Gifford

“Children can interact with robots in their own homes thanks to the digital magic of Augmented Reality. Activities include building their own robot and programming it to move, seeing their own arm become bionic, flying a search and rescue drone and battling with bots, all on the kitchen table! Place your tablet or smart phone near the visual trigger on the page then hold it up to see the AR in action. iRobot is packed with fascinating information about these marvellous machines - how they work, how they are used and what the future holds.”

Inventions (Eyewitness Guide)

“Discover the fascinating inventions that changed the world, from simple everyday objects like the clock to future technologies, robots and AI. Explore the world of telescopes and medical equipment, or learn how modern computers came to exist. With amazing encyclopedic stats, engaging photographs and genius gem facts, Inventions will introduce you to the the most exciting and revolutionary gadgets ever created.”

Young Adult

Bzrk, by Michael Grant

“These are no ordinary soldiers. This is no ordinary war. Welcome to the nano, where the only battle is for sanity. Losing is not an option when a world of madness is at stake. Time is running out for the good guys. But what happens when you don’t know who the good guys really are?”

Echo Boy, by Matt Haig

“Audrey’s father taught her that to stay human in the modern world, she had to build a moat around herself; a moat of books and music, philosophy and dreams. A moat that makes Audrey different from the echoes: sophisticated, emotionless machines, built to resemble humans and to work for human masters. Daniel is an echo - but he’s not like the others. He feels a connection with Audrey; a feeling Daniel knows he was never designed to have, and cannot explain. And when Audrey is placed in terrible danger, he’s determined to save her.”

Adult fiction

I, Robot, by Isaac Asimov

“In these classic sci fi stories, Isaac Asimov ushers in the Robot Age, where Earth is ruled by master-machines who are governed by Three Laws of Robotics, designed to ensure humans maintain the upper hand. But what happens when a rogue robot’s idea of what is good for society contravenes the Three Laws?”

If you prefer listening to reading, why not listen to the recent Radio 4 dramatisation of I, Robot while it’s still on iPlayer?

The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, by Douglas Adams

Follow the adventures of the last surviving man from Earth, Arthur Dent, after the planet is demolished by Vogons to make way for a hyperspace bypass. Exploring the galaxy with his alien friend and rescuer Ford Prefect, he meets all manner of unusual characters, including depressed robot Marvin, the Paranoid Android.

Do Android Dream of Electric Sheep?, by Philip K. Dick

“Popularly known as Blade Runner due to its movie adaptation, Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? is Dick’s most famous title. Stalking androids in 21st century megalopolis, Deckard begins to question just who is human and what human is.”

Rossum’s Universal Robots, by Karel Čapek (trans. David Short)

“Determined to liberate the mass-produced but highly intelligent robots forged in the machinery of Rossum’s island factory, Helena Gory arrives in a blaze of righteousness. Soon perplexed by the robots’ seeming humanity but lack of sentience, she deserts her strident campaigning and falls in love with Domin, the factory’s general manager.”

V., by Thomas Pynchon

“V. is the debut novel of Thomas Pynchon, published in 1963. It describes the exploits of a discharged U.S. Navy sailor named Benny Profane, his reconnection in New York with a group of pseudo-bohemian artists and hangers-on known as the Whole Sick Crew, and the quest of an aging traveller named Herbert Stencil to identify and locate the mysterious entity he knows only as “V.””

The Stepford Wives, by Ira Levin

“The women of Stepford are not all that they seem. All the beautiful people live in idyllic Stepford, Connecticut, an affluent, suburban Eden populated with successful, satisfied hubbies and beautiful, dutiful wives. For Joanna Eberhart, newly arrived with her husband and two children, it all seems too good to be true.”

Bicentennial Man, by Isaac Asimov

The title story in this collection is about robot butler NDR, aka Andrew, who increasingly feels and identifies as human, but cannot be recognised as such unless he becomes mortal.

Frankenstein, by Mary Shelley

“Written when Mary Shelley was only 19 years old, this chilling tale of a young scientist’s desire to create life still resonates today. Victor Frankenstein’s monster is stitched together from the stolen limbs of the dead, and the result is a grotesque being who, rejected by his maker, sets out on a journey to wreak his revenge. In the most famous gothic horror story ever told, Shelley confronts the limitations of science, the nature of human cruelty and the pathway to forgiveness with rich language and evocative imagery.”

Adult non-fiction

Rise of the Robots: technology and the threat of mass unemployment, by Martin Ford

“Artificial intelligence is already well on its way to making ‘good jobs’ obsolete: many paralegals, doctors, and ironically even computer programmers are poised to be replaced by robots. As technology continues to accelerate and machines begin taking care of themselves, fewer jobs will be necessary.

“In terms of societal and economic upheaval, this is most important technological shift since the industrial revolution. And, unless we radically reassess the fundamentals of how our economy and politics work, we risk a future of massive unemployment and inequality as well as the implosion of the economy itself. Martin Ford offers both an exploration of this new technology and a call to arms to face its implications.”

The Fourth Industrial Revolution, by Klaus Schwab

“The founder and executive chairman of the World Economic Forum on how the impending technological revolution will change our lives.”

The Internet of Things: how smart TVs, smart cars, smart homes, and smart cities are changing the world, by Michael Miller

“The old Internet typically connected personal computers. But a radically new Internet is emerging. By some estimates, the ‘Internet of Everything’ will explode into a $19 trillion market in just a few years. If that happens, when that happens, it will transform your life. You need to know what’s coming. Michael Miller reveals how a new generation of autonomously connected smart devices is emerging, and how it will enable people and devices to do more things, more intelligently, and more rapidly.”

Making Simple Automata, by Robert Race

“Designing and making successful automata involves combining materials, mechanisms, and magic. This book explains how to design and construct small scale, simple mechanical devices made for fun. Illustrated with examples throughout, it explains the six golden rules for making automata alongside detailed step-by-step projects.”

Leonardo Automations and Robotics, by Sara Taglialagamba (ed.)

“One of the most exciting challenges faced by Leonardo was to create robots made to resemble human or animal, or rather automatic self-operating devices. The technological excellence achieved during the XV century and the impetus in Mechanics and Engineering developed in Leonardo a growing interest in humanoid automata and in self-operating machines that still interests many scholars today. Many researchers share the hypothesis that Leonardo studied automata and attempted to sketch some projects on his manuscripts. In fact, pulleys and gears are the real ‘stars’ of the famous folio 216v-b [579r] in the Codex Atlanticus, associated with the project of the automaton or robot. Due to the lack of a main project, this drawing leaves some pending questions.

“This project was the result of the research carried out by the artist in the field of anatomy, studies partially lost and partially recorded in the Codex Huygens, kept at the Pierpont Morgan Library in New York. Therefore Leonardo traced the idea of a sort of Robotics, a so-called anathomia artificialis: studying the human body, he came to the creation of a wonderful humanised machine. The artist-craftsman could not receive a higher consecration. Leonardo’s automata are the subject of this book, which collects the results presented by scholars that have studied Leonardo from different points of view.”

In Our Own Image: artificial intelligence, fear, love and the future of mankind, by George Zarkadakis

“Dr George Zarkadakis traces artificial intelligence or AI’s origins in ancient myth, through literary classics such as Frankenstein, to today’s sci-fi blockbusters, arguing that a fascination with AI is hardwired into the human psyche. He explains AI’s history, technology and potential; its manifestations in intelligent machines; its connections to neurology and consciousness, as well as - perhaps most tellingly - what AI reveals about us as human beings.”

DVDs

Humans

“Sci-fi drama series set in an alternate future where families use lifelike androids, known as synths, as their robotic house servants. In suburban London, Joe Hawkins (Tom Goodman-Hill) purchases a new synth, that his children name Anita (Gemma Chan), to replace his oft-absent wife Laura (Katherine Parkinson). But when she returns to find her husband’s new purchase, Laura begins to feel threatened by the synthetic human and worryingly suspects that synths may be capable of experiencing human emotions.

“Meanwhile, retired synth scientist Dr. George Millican (William Hurt) starts to experience problems with his outdated synth Odi (Will Tudor) while elsewhere another synth scientist, Professor Edwin Hobbs (Danny Webb), leads a search for a trio of missing synths.”

Blade Runner - The Final Cut

“Extended version of Ridley Scott’s cult classic. Ex-cop Rick Deckard (Harrison Ford) is hired to track down a group of androids who have escaped from a satellite colony. As two of the AWOL ‘replicants’ (Rutger Hauer and Daryl Hannah) seek refuge in a geneticist’s house, Deckard takes his investigation to the Tyrell Corporation, where he falls in love with Rachael (Sean Young), herself an android, but with a memory chip that convinces her she is human.”

Wallace and Gromit: The Wrong Trousers

“When money troubles prompt Wallace to take in a lodger, life at West Wallaby Street gets complicated for poor Gromit. Forced out of his room to make way for a cool-as-a-cucumber penguin called Feathers McGraw, it’s not long before he feels well and truly usurped as Wallace’s faithful companion.

“There’s something not right about this penguin and when Gromit spots a ‘Wanted’ poster for a criminal ‘chicken’, it would seem his suspicions are correct. Meanwhile, the helpless Wallace finds himself under Feathers’ control – quite literally! The dastardly penguin has adapted Wallace’s Techno Trousers for his latest heist and he’s going to get Wallace to carry out his dirty work…”

Music

Alan Parsons - I Robot

This album draws conceptually on author Isaac Asimov’s science fiction Robot trilogy, exploring philosophical themes regarding artificial intelligence.

Rexanthony - War Robots

War Robots is a crossover of various styles such as psycho-trance, post-techno and minimal-electro. Its concept is to support human rights and a higher consciousness of social problems through sounds and lyrics.

Star Wars: The Clone Wars Original Motion Picture Soundtrack

Various - Transformers The Movie soundtrack

Jo Dixon

I work for Suffolk Libraries Stock Team.