Robotics and AI Galore

In this month’s April blog post we are highlighting robotics and artificial intelligence. Artificial intelligence has become an increasingly hot topic within the digital landscape. This month the young adult fiction novels will consist of robots, cyborgs, humanoids as protagonists, and artificial intelligence as a major figure or theme in the plot. The selection of young adult novels is a great starting point for sci-fi fans interested in finding novels with all thing’s robots and AI.

Bow, Erin
The Scorpion Rules. 2015. Young Adult.
The Scorpion Rules follows Greta, a duchess and crown princess who is held hostage in the name of peace. Greta’s world follows the rules where if you want to lead you must give up one of your children as a hostage. If you are to go to war your hostage dies. Greta hopes to make it to her eighteenth birthday when she can finally be free. In the meantime, she lives in the Precepture school with all the other sons and daughters of the world’s leaders. In the Precepture school she is taught to obey the machines that control their lives. However, things take a turn when a new hostage arrives named Elian who refuses to play by the rules and defies everything that has been taught to Greta. Elian is able to open Greta’s eyes to the brutality that they live under and as both Greta and Elian’s nations come closer to all-out war Greta must find a way to break the rules of the game in order to survive because if not, it will end up killing the both of them.
S. B67sc

Curtis, Simon
Boy Robot. 2016. Young Adult.
Isaak’s life is turned upside down in a single night when his adoptive parents are killed, a mysterious girl saves him from a group of soldiers, and he learns of his own dark origins. Isaak learns he is a robot, a government made synthetic human produced for the sole purpose of becoming a weapon and who is now being hunted and is marked for termination. Isaak, with another band of robots, finds a haven in the underground which is home to a secret network of robots and humans coexisting and working together to ensure a future with both species. However, to be protected by the underground Isaak must make it there first, which proves to be deadly when there is a lethal military force tasked with finding him at any cost. Isaak must face whether to relinquish his humanity to survive or hold on to his humanity and face death.
S. C946bo

Kaufman, Amie and Kristoff, Jay
Illuminae. 2015. Young Adult.
The Illuminae Files is a striking series which begins with Kady breaking up with her boyfriend Ezra, believing that would be the hardest moment of her life although it is quickly diminished when her planet is invaded by lunch time. In the year 2575 two rival mega corporations are at war over a planet and with enemy fire raining down on Kady’s planet she, along with her now ex-boyfriend, is forced to evacuate with a hostile warship on their tail. Just when things go from bad to worse a plague strikes and mutates with terrifying results on the fleet and the fleet’s AI may be their enemy. With secrets all around Kady hacks into the web of data to find out the truth and the only person that would be able to help her is the ex-boyfriend she swore she would never speak to again. With the narrative including hacked documents, emails, maps, files, IMs, medical reports, interviews, and more, The Illuminae Files is sure to be an enthralling read.
S. K1623il

Kincaid, S.J.
The Diabolic. 2016. Young Adult.
Nemesis is a Diabolic, a humanoid teenager created to protect a galactic senator’s daughter named Sidonia. Nemesis and Sidonia have grown-up alongside each other, and Nemesis is expected to give her life for Sidonia if necessary. Nemesis is also tasked with taking as many lives as possible necessary to keep Sidonia safe. When the emperor learns Sidonia’s father is participating in a rebellion, he summons Sidonia to the galactic court where she is to serve as a hostage. The only way to protect Sidonia is for Nemesis to become her. This leads Nemesis to travel to the galactic court disguised as Sidonia, a humanoid killing machine masquerading in a place full of corrupt politicians and deceitful senators’ children. With threats on every side Nemesis must keep her true abilities a secret or risk everything. As the rebellion looms closer and the empire begins to weaken Nemesis finds within herself a humanity purer than the humans she has faced and realizes her humanity may be the thing that saves her life and the empire.
S. K573di

Kristoff, Jay
Life L1k3. 2018. Young Adult.
In the first book in the Lifelike series, we follow Eve who finds the ruins of an android boy named Ezekiel in the scrap pile she calls her home. When this happens, her entire world comes crashing down. Follow Eve with her robotic sidekick and her best friend in tow as she and Ezekiel trek across deserts of irradiated glass, battle cyborg assassins, scour abandoned megacities to save the ones she loves, and to unravel the dark secrets of her past.
S. K8982li

Meyer, Marrisa
Cinder. 2012. Young Adult.
Cinder is a Cinderella retelling that focuses on Cinder, a gifted mechanic and cyborg who lives in New Beijing where humans and androids coexist. Cinder is a second-class citizen with a mysterious past, she is reviled by her stepmother and blamed for her stepsister’s illness. Cinder’s life becomes intertwined with the handsome Prince Kai when she finds herself at the center of an intergalactic struggle and forbidden romance. As a deadly plague ravages the population, Cinder is caught between duty and freedom, loyalty, and betrayal. She must uncover the secrets about her past to protect her world’s future.
S. M57572c

Oliver, Ben
The Loop. 2020. Young Adult.
Luka Kane is celebrating his sixteenth birthday, and he has been inside The Loop for over two years. The Loop is a futuristic death row for teens under eighteen experiencing one long repetitive purgatory. Every inmate inside The Loop is serving a death sentence with the option to push back their execution date by six months if they participate in “delays,” scientific and medical experiments for the benefit of the elite on the outside. When rumors begin to swirl of an impending war on the outside it begins to spread to all inmates and their torturous routines become disrupted. The government issued rain begins to stop, strange things begin to happen with the guards, until all the inmates are left alone inside the prison. Luka must now try to survive and break out of The Loop to save his family and figure out who is responsible for the chaos that has been unleashed upon the world.
S. Ol432lo

Rothenberg, Jess
The Kingdom. 2019. Young Adult.
The Kingdom is an immersive fantasy theme park where guests can soar on virtual dragons, bioengineered species roam free, and castles loom over the park like giants. Ana is one of seven fantasists. Fantasists are beautiful princesses engineered to make the guests’ dreams come true. When Ana meets a park employee named Owen, Ana begins to experience emotions beyond her programming including first-time love. However, this fairy tale soon becomes a nightmare when Ana is accused of murdering Owen, igniting a trial of the ages. Through courtroom testimony and interviews, Ana’s memories of Owen emerge as a narrative of love, lies, and deceit. At the center we learn what it truly means to be human.
S. R743ki

Shusterman, Neal
Scythe. 2016. Young Adult.
The Arc of a Scythe series explores a world with no hunger, no disease, no war, and no misery. Humanity has become so advanced that is has conquered all things, even death. Scythes are now the only ones who can end a life and their duty is to end lives to keep the size of the population under control. Citra and Rowan are chosen to be apprentices to a scythe, a role that neither of them wants to have. These two teens must master the “art” of taking a life or risk failing and losing their own.
S. Sh932scy

Skrutskie, Emily
Hullmetal Girls. 2018. Young Adult.
When Aisha Un-Haad’s brother catches the plague, Aisha would do anything to save him and that means volunteering to become a Scela, a mechanically enhanced soldier sworn to protect and serve the governing body of the fleet, a collective of starships they call home to fund her brother’s treatment. If Aisha can survive the agonizing modifications and earn an elite place among the Scela ranks she may be able to save her brother. Meanwhile Key Tanaka awakens in a Scela body with little to no memories of her life before. All Key knows is she is from the privileged end of the fleet and has no recollection as to why she decided to relinquish a life of comfort and luxury to become a burly cyborg soldier. If Key can make it through her training, she may be able to recover some of her memories. In a unit of new recruits all vying for top placement, Key and Aisha’s paths collide and the two must learn to work together. A rebellion is brewing among the fleet with those yearning for independence from the fleet against a government that is struggling to maintain unity. With violence brewing at every turn, Aisha and Key find themselves questioning their loyalties and putting aside their differences to keep humanity from tearing itself apart.
S. Sk67hu

Wells, Dan
Partials. 2012. Young Adult.
After a war with the Partials, humanity is all but extinguished. Partials are engineered organic beings identical to humans who have destroyed the population. When all that is left of humanity is tens of thousands of humans, with only a fraction who are immune to a deadly virus, the survivors in North America have been able to keep each other safe and isolated on Long Island. Sixteen-year-old Kira is determined to find a solution and save what is left of her race. She discovers that the key to their survival rests in her attempts to answer questions about the origins of the war against Partials and humans that no one ever thought to ask.
S. W46232p


Nuts n’ Bolts: Robot Books

Many schools these days are focusing on STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) education. Robotics combines these areas in a topic that fascinates children, one that appeals to both imagination and practicality. Getting involved in a hands-on way can be a bridge to a lifelong involvement with STEM subjects. My two younger sisters both participated on our high school’s robotics team, and now one is a mechanical engineer and the other is majoring in accounting. And sure, that’s a sample size of two, but a 2011 study in School Science And Mathematics found that “students who participated in a robotic competition had a more positive attitude toward science and science-related areas in four of the seven categories examined: social implications of science, normality of scientists, attitude toward scientific inquiry, and adoption of scientific attitudes” (Welch*). Most states have robotics teams for kids of various ages — one of the bigger organizations is FIRST.

Another way to get kids engaged on multiple levels is to introduce a topic across curricula. In that spirit, here is a roundup of some of the robot-themed books in the S-Collection. You’ll find evil robots and friendly robots; robots who simplify our lives and complicate it. Some of the books look toward robots in the past, some to innovations yet to be realized. All can serve as inspiration for technology the kids of today might invent tomorrow — or maybe after lunch.

*Welch, A., & Huffman, D. (2011). The Effect of Robotics Competitions on High School Students’ Attitudes toward Science. School Science And Mathematics, 111(8), 416-424.

Search Strategies

To find children’s fiction about robots, search in the catalog for “juvenile fiction” and an additional keyword. To find non-fiction, search for “juvenile literature” and an additional keyword.

Fruitful keywords:

In non-fiction, additional books about robots can be found in the Dewey Decimal section 629.8.
Picture Books

DiPucchio, Kelly S.
Clink. 2011.
While newer, fancier robots are quickly purchased, Clink, an old-fashioned robot who can only make toast and music, gathers dust and feels downhearted until a young boy enters the shop looking for something special.
[S-Coll Q. SE. D626cl]

Dyckman, Ame.
Boy + Bot. 2012.
One day, a boy and a robot meet in the woods. They play. They have fun. But when Bot gets switched off, Boy thinks he’s sick. The usual remedies — applesauce, reading a story — don’t help, so Boy tucks the sick Bot in, then falls asleep. Bot is worried when he powers on and finds his friend powered off. He takes Boy home with him and tries all his remedies: oil, reading an instruction manual. Nothing revives the malfunctioning Boy! Can the Inventor help fix him?
[S-Coll SE. D984b]

Hughes, Ted.
The iron giant. 2010.
When a towering giant made of iron appears out of nowhere, young Hogarth sees him not as a monster, but a friend. The townspeople are terrified of the giant and devise a plan to bring him down. But Hogarth believes in his friend, and rescues him when no one else will. Together, they teach the people of the village and beyond to conquer their fears, for beneath the giant’s rough armor there beats a mighty heart.
[S-Coll S. H8743ig2010]

Kuszyk, R. Nicholas.
R Robot saves lunch. 2009.
After hurrying to his job at the robot factory, R Robot is given two important assignments — find a missing robot and try to fix the Big Cooker robot so that everyone can have lunch.
[S-Coll Storage Q. SE. K9692r]

McNamara, Margaret.
The three little aliens and the big bad robot. 2011.
Three aliens set off to find a new planet for themselves but soon Bork and Gork have forgotten all of their mother’s good advice and only Nklxwcyz builds a home safe enough to withstand the Big Bad Robot in this story reminiscent of “The Three Little Pigs.”
[S-Coll Q. SE. M459th]

Sias, Ryan.
Zoe and Robot: let’s pretend. 2011.
A young girl tries to teach her robot how to pretend, but how do you use your imagination when you’re a robot? Sias’s vivid cartoons lend wit and warmth to a funny friendship.
[S-Coll S.741.5973 Si112z]

Simon, Annette.
Robot zombie Frankenstein! 2012.
Two robots engage in a game of one-upmanship.
[S-Coll SE. Si5321r]
Intermediate Fiction

Hatke, Ben.
Legends of Zita the Spacegirl. 2012.
Zita is determined to find her way home to Earth, but her exploits have made her an intergalactic megastar, and as her true self is eclipsed by her public persona, she faces a robot doppelganger, unsure of whom she can trust.
[S-Coll S.741.5973 H286l]

Orshoski, Paul.
Robot man. 2010.
A boy and his dad build a robot man and their life is great The robot does all their chores. It even makes them ice cream treats. Their robot does everything for them but then, robot man falls off the roof and everything goes wrong.
[S-Coll SE. Or81r]

Robertson, M. P.
Frank’nStan. 2012.
Frank has no brother or sister to play with, so he decides to make one. He collects all kinds of junk and recycled materials and sets to work. The result is – Stan, a friendly and helpful robot who soon fits into Frank’s family life. But when Frank’s parents present him with a little sister Stan begins to feel unwanted, and makes plans to leave!
[S-Coll SE. R547f]

Wilson, Daniel H.
A boy and his bot. 2011.
When timid young Code falls down a hole into Mekhos, where everything is made of metal and circuitry, he must obtain the legendary Robonomicon from evil Immortalis in order to save the robots of this subterranean world and return home.
[S-Coll S. W6924b]
Young Adult Fiction

Meyer, Melissa.
Cinder. 2012.
As plague ravages the overcrowded Earth, observed by a ruthless lunar people, Cinder, a gifted mechanic and cyborg, becomes involved with handsome Prince Kai and must uncover secrets about her past in order to protect the world in this futuristic take on the Cinderella story.
[S-Coll S. M57572c]

Sheehan, Anna.
A long, long sleep. 2011.
Sixteen-year-old Rosalinda Fitzroy, heir to the multiplanetary corporation UniCorp, is awakened after sixty years in stasis to find that everyone she knew has died and as she tries to make a new life for herself, learns she is the target of a robot assassin.
[S-Coll S. Sh353l]

Watson, Paul E.
The robot. 2011.
When unpopular freshman Gabe Messner and his best friend Dover crack the code to the forbidden laboratory of Gabe’s father, they unwittingly unleash T.R.I.N.A., a beautiful blonde robot programmed with a mission that the two boys must put to a stop.
[S-Coll S. W3361r]
Intermediate Nonfiction

Piddock, Charles.
Future tech: from personal robots to motorized monocycles. 2009.
Explains and illustrates the most current research and technologies that promise to change our lives dramatically in the future, from machines with the ability of independent thought to cars that drive themselves to robots that borrow their nature from nature itself.
[S-Coll S.600 P591f]

Barretta, Gene.
Neo Leo: the ageless ideas of Leonardo da Vinci. 2009.
Cleverly shows how Leonardo’s ideas foreshadowed modern inventions. At once an artist, inventor, engineer, and scientist, Leonardo da Vinci wrote and drew detailed descriptions of what would later become hang gliders, automobiles, robots, and much more.
[S-Coll SB. D1117n]

Kenney, Sean.
Cool robots. 2010.
Master LEGO brick designer Kenney is back with original creations of Robotopolis — robots, transformers, and spaceships. Includes select model instructions, insider tips, and landscape designs for LEGO fans.
[S-Coll S.629.892 K395c]

Hyland, Tony.
How robots work. 2008.
Have you ever seen a robot perform surgery? Do you know how to program your own toy robot? Where do robots fit into your life? Meet some of the robots that have changed our lives. Find out about the robots of today and tomorrow, what they do and what they might look like in the future. From volcano-exploring robots to robots in outer space, discover the developing world of robotics. Includes up-close character profiles of robots, interesting fact boxes, and a hands-on activity.
[S-Coll Q. S.629.8 H997h]

Prepared by:
Mary Dubbs
Graduate Student
Graduate School of Library and Information Science
University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign