top of page

Is it real? Is it natural? Is it something more?

Nature and technology do sometimes collide and Peter Brown has written an outstandingly thought provoking series of books exploring what might happen when it does.

Can I ask, first, what it was that gave you the idea for a story about a robot stranded on a desert island? It is certainly unique! This whole story world stemmed from a little drawing I made of a robot in a tree. It was just a quick doodle, I don’t know why I made it, but I couldn’t stop thinking about that robot. I began wondering why a robot would be in a tree or a forest. How would this robot get there? How would it react to rugged terrain or to wild animals? How would wild animals react to the robot? The questions kept coming, and I gradually developed a story about a robot who finds herself stranded on a wild island and studies the wildlife to learn how to survive. And along the way, she ends up learning a surprising number of life lessons, too.


I like the unusual style of your writing ~ the narrator telling us the story, then letting the characters join in, play their own parts. What was it that prompted you to write like this? I wanted readers to clearly understand what was happening in every scene of the story, but certain scenes were really tricky, and I just couldn’t craft them in a way that would make perfect sense to every reader. I had the idea that the narrator could speak directly to readers in those moments and let them know that it’s okay to be confused. I wrote narration like, “If you’re a little confused, reader, you’re not alone. The robot was confused, as well.” I found that approach so helpful and charming that I decided to expand on it and use it throughout all the books, wherever I thought readers might need a little boost. I think many readers find it comforting to have a friendly narrator to help them navigate the story.

The chapters are very short, again something that appealed. They are fun, allow events to take place and story to develop quickly. It is also great for reading aloud. What prompted this structure, what do you think it lends to the story? I’ve written and illustrated numerous picture books over my career. I’m comfortable writing a short, tight text where I can meticulously craft every sentence. But then I had the idea for The Wild Robot books, and I quickly realized they needed to be novels. Honestly, I was really intimidated by the thought of writing my first novel. And then I had the idea to write each chapter as if it were a picture book. Each chapter would be a short, tight text where I could meticulously craft every sentence. This approach made the process feel more familiar, which freed my mind to focus on making the stories as interesting as possible. Additionally, with lots of short chapters, readers would get the satisfaction of finishing a chapter every few pages. As it turns out, breaking a big story down into little bite-sized chapters worked well for both me and my readers.


Roz and the animals have a steep learning curve as they make their island more homely, particularly when winter comes, and they need to hibernate. What, if any, is the message that you wanted to convey to the reader? A big theme in The Wild Robot is how Roz uses kindness as a survival strategy. It takes a while for the animals to accept her, but by consistently being kind and generous she eventually wins them over. One of the best examples of this is how she helps the animal community survive a particularly brutal winter. The animals remember her kindness, and they eventually return the favor. Roz uses kindness again in The Wild Robot Escapes, to win over the Shareef family by showing them kindness when they need it most. And in the new book, The Wild Robot Protects, Roz shows kindness to her friends and family and a whole new cast of characters, including a seal, a hermit crab, an octopus, and a very old shark.


The contrast between Roz and the robots sent to collect her, in Book 1, is fascinating. The new robots don’t deviate from their instructions yet, from her first moments, Roz did. Do you think that in the future robots will be able to think for themselves? What do you think the benefit will be? I would argue that Roz behaved quite robotically, at first. But her circumstances and her environment forced her to adapt, and we watch as she gradually becomes wilder and less robotic. As technology advances, I’m sure robots in the real world will become less and less robotic, and eventually they’ll seem to have genuine thoughts and feelings. I can imagine those types of robots having many uses, especially in healthcare and wellness, and doing dangerous work like rescue missions or deep-sea mining or repairing spacecraft. Robots like that may seem strange to us now, but as we learn how they can improve our lives, we’ll quickly get used to them.

If I were to be asked what age group the stories are suitable for, I would say, 8+, teens, adults because the books can read on so many levels. Would you agree and was this intentional? Most children’s novels are for ages 8 to 12, so I set out to write the Wild Robot books for that age range. But once the first book was published, I quickly realized that it was being read by children younger than 8 and older than 12, and I heard from countless parents and educators about how much they were enjoying it, too. In the U.S., entire elementary schools will read the Wild Robot books together, and they’ll do science projects and art projects and all sorts of activities based on them. So, at this point, I have no idea what their target age range is, and that’s fine by me.


Did you know, once you started out on the journey with Roz, that her story would become such an evolved one? From the time I first began developing these stories, I knew they would show Roz adapting to her surroundings and becoming wilder and more emotional. But I didn’t expect the stories to have so many layers. I didn’t set out to write stories about an outcast trying to find her place in the world, or about family members struggling to understand each other. I didn’t set out to make stories that are so philosophical. But the more I write these Wild Robot stories, the deeper they become. It’s been amazing to watch so many surprising themes develop, all on their own, throughout my creative process.


How much of a stretch of the imagination do you think it is to have robots and animals who can communicate with one another? Not a stretch at all. In fact, just the other day I read an article about how new robots are already being used to study animals in new ways. Robots may never be able to have meaningful conversations with animals, the way Roz does in the books, but I expect that robots will soon help us learn all kinds of unexpected things about animals.

What philosophical questions did you ask yourself before and during the writing process, are there any you hope readers will ask themselves? I spent a lot of time thinking about kindness. Why are people kind to strangers? Why do animals sometimes appear to be kind to each other? Are these behaviours simply coming from a generous spirit, or is there some other instinct at work? And even if someone helps me for their own selfish reasons, does it really matter? If someone chooses to help, that says a lot about them. I hope that by witnessing Roz’s journey, readers will realize that kindness is its own reward, but also that there are real benefits to us when we show kindness to others. There are many good reasons to be kind.


The story ends, in book 2, beautifully, but it also poses the question; do stories ever end? Its fun to imagine what characters do after the last page of their story. In fact, that’s why I decided to continue the series and write this newest book. Book 2, The Wild Robot Escapes, has a very satisfying ending, but I couldn’t stop imagining what the characters would do after the end of that story. I kept imagining the changing world, the life events, the moral dilemmas, the evolution that Roz and Brightbill and the other characters would experience after the end of The Wild Robot Escapes. Eventually, I realized that I had the start of a new adventure where Roz goes to extraordinary lengths to save her home island, and I got to work writing The Wild Robot Protects.

All the books in the series are available from all good bookshops and you can find them here too:

Our thanks to Peter Brown for taking the time to answer these questions for us, your responses are fascinating and the books are surely classics in the making. Thanks also to Pippa Poole at Bonnier Books and Antonia Wilkinson for making this happen.


Featured Posts
Recent Posts
Search By Tags
Follow Us
  • Facebook Basic Square
  • Twitter Basic Square
  • Google+ Basic Square
bottom of page