A Capitol Choices 2015 nominee
Four Stars from CM Magazine
Diamond Willow Award Shortlist

Innovations in the world of robotics are multiplying, with many cutting-edge breakthroughs, and this exciting and timely new book for young readers explores one particularly intriguing area: the world of robo-animals, or zoobots. In an attempt to design robots that can solve problems or perform tasks that humans can't, or just can't do easily, roboticists have been looking at the unique skills some animals have. Using something called mechatronics — mechanical and electrical engineering combined with computer science — they are finding ways to closely mirror those skills in robot form. Some fascinating examples from the book of what zoobots can do include: finding survivors of a fire using sensitive, computerized "whiskers"; scaling skyscraper walls using super stickiness; or delivering drugs deep within the human body using microscopic whiptails for locomotion. Twelve zoobots are described, each on its own two-page spread.

Award-winning children's author Helaine Becker's text is comprehensive, yet clear and lively, and is made more manageable by being broken up into shorter segments. The futuristic design of the book includes vivid, detailed color illustrations by Alex Ries, of both the zoobot prototypes as well as the animals from which their skills were derived. This imaginative and interesting nonfiction book will definitely capture the imaginations of technology buffs. It also has enormous potential for classroom use in exploring everything from basic technology and robots, to engineering concepts, to inventions. A glossary and an index make it work well as a wonderful reference tool. Get a sneak peak at inside pages - animated! and hear me talk about the book here.


"Zoobots? What exciting “first generation” inventions this book introduces! Scientists are making science fiction come alive in research labs and university labs around the world, from the nanobot that can move around in human blood vessels to the 200-pound “Ole Pill Bug” designed to withstand temperatures up to 1850°F and aid in fighting forest fires. These animal-inspired robots will only spawn newer, even stranger robots in the future. For now, though, all but 4 of the 12 robots featured have working prototypes; the others are in development. Using scientific headings, a black background, and a larger-than-life Photoshop illustration of each zoobot (along with a smaller illustration of the animal on which it is based), this ought to engage the imagination of future scientists—and who knows what they might create? This one won’t stay on library shelves for long."
                                                                          — J. B. Petty, Booklist

"Zoobots looks at a dozen creations in various stages of development, from concept to working prototypes. Becker shares a marvellous selection of robots, including the human-like Geminoid F, microscopic nanobots, and the heavyweight Ole Pill Bug – a 200-pound fire-fighting machine.
Each robot gets a double-page spread that provides basic information, including the animal that inspired it, some simple applications, and a “super skill.” Becker also provides a brief description of the natural characteristics borrowed by each robot, such as the sensitive whiskers of the Etruscan pygmy shrew that are replicated on the Shrewbot’s movable “nose,” allowing it to gather information that can be relayed back to its operator. The text is supported beautifully by Ries’s bright, graphic artwork and a handy glossary."
                              - Quill and Quire

"Robot Snakes. That’s the first thing that jumped out at me when I saw the cover of this book on NetGalley, and I knew that not only would my 10 year-old love this book, but so would every 10 year-old in the several library sites I oversee. That is the kind of book Zoobots is – it’s a win-win situation. You have robot animals, complete with facts about the functions and statistics on the robotic creatures, plus profiles on the animals influencing them; you also have the nonfiction aspect, which makes it compatible with Common Core focus on nonfiction texts, with the extra STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics) appeal that will hopefully inspire a reader or 3 to become a scientist and actually work with these robots.Helaine Becker’s text is chunked into a dossier-type format, complete with futuristic fonts. We get the name of the robot – some include the Shrewbot, the Octobot, the Ghostbot, and the Nanobot – and what class of animal its influence belongs to (i.e., mammalia, reptilia). There are skills, specifications, and applications: the growing number of robotics dedicated to the medical industry alone is amazing, as is the idea of using pill bug-inspired robots to help prevent raging forest fires. Special Ops describes special talents these robots can use while in the field; my favorite is the Uncle Sam snake robot, who can actually assemble itself!
There is no science fiction here – all of the 12 robot animals profiled are in some sort of prototype stage, whether being developed or in existence. A section on the future wonders what further robots future minds will create, which I hope spurs some readers to start sketching and joining robotics teams. There is a glossary of terms and a full index.
I loved this book, and think it belongs in libraries and science classes throughout elementary and middle schools. The illustrations, by concept artist and illustrator Alex Ries, give life to the robotics, spotlighting their flexibility and their features. The book is only 36 pages, but the number of lesson plans and ideas that can come out of this? Boundless."
         - Mom Read It Blog

"Readers interested in science, science fiction, or just cool and weird stuff will have fun with Zoobots, a look at robots inspired by real animals.
Author of many science books, Helaine Becker examines 12 different robots now in working prototypes or in development. Each robot is based on a real animal and has been engineered to mimic that creature’s characteristics or abilities. For instance, the Shrewbot has delicate whisker-like sensors; it can be used to explore hidden areas, sniff out bombs, or used in search and rescue missions. Its inspiration is the Etruscan Pygmy Shrew, a nocturnal animal who uses its extraordinarily sensitive whiskers to assess its surroundings in the dark and hunt for food.
Becker gives us other pairings of robots and their animal counterparts — the Stickybot III that climbs like a gecko, the Ghostbot that ripples through water like the unusual Black Ghost Knifefish, and many others based on animals as varied as cockroaches, bacteria, jellyfish and even humans.
Each doublepage spread presents a description of the robot’s “super skills” and applications, as well as a short and informative look at the animal the robot “evolved” from. Vivid and detailed digital illustrations by Australian artist Alex Ries add to our understanding.
A glossary and index are included, but this book is also an intriguing look at the future of robots — and some strange and interesting animals as well."

- National Reading Campaign

"When you think of robots, it’s not likely the 12 “robo-animals” that author Helaine Becker describes in her newest book, Zoobots: Wild Robots Inspired by Real Animals. Unlike Pixar’s Wall-E, Star Wars’ R2D2, Zoomer the interactive robotic dog, and Honda’s humanoid, the robots Becker writes about have been developed to carry out tasks that humans can’t, and they mimic the physical characteristics of particular animals to do so. These animals include the bat described above, the pill bug with seven pairs of legs and overlapping scales of chitin, the octopus with boneless arms of muscle that act independently and can be strong and rigid or flimsy and soft, the cockroach with its tank-like build, 75 cm per second scuttle speed, and swarm intelligence, and jellyfish that also make use of collective intelligence and move through the oceans by expanding and contracting their bodies to push water behind them...

    Zoobots is 32 pages in length and includes a table of contents, a two-page spread for each robo-animal, glossary, index, and one page wherein Becker makes clear that the zoobots described are first generation animal robots, and she predicts what the future for roboticists and their animal-inspired robots may be.

    As surreal and amazing as Becker’s descriptions are, they come alive through the artwork of Alex Ries and the design of Julia Naimska. Each page is beautifully planned, laid out, and illustrated. Readers who pick up the book because of the transforming snake on the cover will be amazed by the detailed depiction of the Shrewbot (based on the Etruscan pigmy shrew), Stickybot III (based on the gecko), the Ghostbot (based on the black ghost knightfish), and others of these astonishing mechanical animals.

Highly Recommended.  4 out of 4 stars"     - CM Magazine

"Science fiction comes to life in this riveting showcase of zoobots - robots based on actual animals. Meet Squeeze, an octobot based on the octopus; Slither, a serpentine robot based on snakes, and 10 other fascinating robots. Intriguing an informative, this book will take readers on a walk on the wild side of robotic engineering."

               - Canadian Children's Book Centre

Kids Can Press
ISBN: 978-1-55453-971-0 
$18.95 cloth

A Junior

Silver Birch Honour Award!

A 2014 CCBC 
Best Books
for Kids and Teens
Starred Selection!