I’m back with a recommendation for independent readers who love graphic novels, comic books, robots, villains and adventure! Dav Pilkey may be best known as the creator of the Captain Underpants and Dog Man series but he is also the author of the perhaps lesser known Ricky Ricotta’s Mighty Robot series. Illustrated in full color by Dan Santat (Caldecott Medal winner, The Adventures of Beekle: The Unimaginary Friend), each of the nine books in the collection are visually compelling with a fast-paced story to keep things interesting.
Ricky is a small mouse who lives with his mom and dad in Squeakyville. He loves his parents but sometimes he wishes he had a friend to keep him company. After being accosted by bullies on his way to school, Ricky wishes that something BIG would happen that would change his life. In the next chapter, we see Ricky eat lunch alone and then watch other mice play at recess. By this point, I’m hoping that poor Ricky’s luck will change soon, too!
And then on the very next page, we learn that a mad scientist named Dr. Stinky McNasty has been working on an evil plot to build a Mighty Robot that will destroy the town of Squeakyville and open the door for the doctor to rule the world! At first, the robot does what he is programmed to do. He crashes through the streets, tossing cars like toys, terrifying the citizens. But when he is given the command to destroy the town, he experiences a moment of clarity.
As he looks around at the horrified faces of the townspeople, The Mighty Robot refuses to obey. Dr. Stinky McNasty is furious and in retaliation, he presses a button on his remote that sends electric shocks into the Mighty Robot. Watching the action unfold is Ricky, who intervenes in the robot’s torture by kicking a ball into the doctor’s head. The hit causes the doctor to drop the remote, which them breaks on the ground. He retreats in anger down a sewer drain, vowing revenge.
The other mice scurry away in fear but Ricky is not afraid. He approaches the Mighty Robot, who smiles and pats him on the head. The BIG thing Ricky has been waiting for has finally happened! In a sly move that my own son might try to pull, Ricky brings the robot home and asks his parents if he can have a pet. Only after they agree do they learn that the pet is a 200 foot metal man! But the Mighty Robot proves his worth by helping with household chores and acting as a theft deterrent to burglars. Ricky’s parents agree that he can stay and live in the garage (again, he’s easily 20 stories tall but we’ll let that detail slide).
The next day, Ricky takes his Mighty Robot to school. As you would expect, the bullies he previously endured now offer to carry his bag when the see Ricky’s massive friend. Good riddance, clowns! He introduces his class to the Mighty Robot during show and tell. His classmates enjoy flying around town on the robot and while they’re all distracted, Dr. Stinky McNasty initiates his plan for revenge (he doesn’t waste any time!)
He sneaks into Ricky’s classroom and feeds Hate Potion #9 to the class pet, a lizard. Immediately, the lizard grows to Godzilla proportions and is under the complete control of the doctor. He orders the lizard to destroy Ricky and his Mighty Robot. The lizard is happy to comply and an epic battle plays out comic book-style over the next several pages. The battle could go either way; the Mighty Robot and the lizard seem appropriately matched. The final battle plays out in Flip-O-Rama, which those familiar with Pilkey’s Captain Underpants and Dog Man series will already know. After five scenarios play out over the course of furious page-flipping, the Mighty Robot emerges victorious!
The giant lizard begins to shrink until he is back to his original form. He is no longer a threat but the increasingly unhinged Dr. Stinky McNasty attempts to destroy the robot with a shoulder fired rocket! Ricky jumps on the doctor at the moment he fires, which sends the rocket hurtling through the air, directly into the doctor’s secret cave! His day goes from bad to worse when the Mighty Robot picks him up and deposits him directly into the city jail. Ricky’s family celebrates with a BBQ and all is right with the world.
The next eight books follow a similar pattern of Ricky and his robot defeating a dastardly villain, though beginning with book two, the bad guys start invading Earth from each planet in our solar system. In this series, poor Pluto is still recognized as a full-fledged planet so Ricky and his robot end the series by fighting some very unpleasant penguins from the tiny planet. While the previous entries wrap with Ricky and his robot victorious, the final entry will leave readers uncertain of the pair’s fate until the final few pages.
I guarantee that your reader will be hooked on Ricky Ricotta’s Mighty Robot. It’s a fun, fast paced series that celebrates the importance of friendship, courage and caring for humanity. And couldn’t we all use a little more of that in the world right now? Take care out there!