'A Rover's Story' Book Club: Day 1By: OwlCrate Jr
“Human feelings are dangerous. They make humans make poor decisions … They care about each other and about other things here on Earth. And because of their attachments and their feelings, they do things that are dangerous. We were built to avoid the problems of humans. We were built to make good decisions.”
Welcome to the OwlCrate Jr Book Club! This month we are reading A Rover's Story by Jasmine Warga.
Hopefully everyone is recovering well from their Halloween candy hangover and is readying for the upcoming winter season! This month we will be reading A Rover’s Story by Newbery Honor novelist Jasmine Warga. It is a perfect story for all of us who love to assign anthropomorphic characterizations to, well, everything! Follow along with Res, a rover destined to travel to Mars, as he not only learns all the science he needs to be an excellent rover in space, but starts to develop an understanding of the complicated landscape of human emotions. Will it make him a better machine? Or will emotions cloud his judgment and put the mission in jeopardy?? Grab a copy and join us to find out…
November 21: Part One (Pages 1 - 89)
November 24: Parts Two & Three (Pages 90 - 181)
November 28: Parts Four & Five (Pages 182 - end)
PART ONE: Preparing
We meet Resilience, or Res, as he comes to be in a room full of NASA scientists in hazmat suits and blinding bright lights. Of course, he doesn’t yet know his name is Resilience (named so by a grade six student from Ohio) or what bright lights are or even what a hazmat suit is … but piece by piece he begins to store and process the world around him. Quickly cataloging names, facts, data, and, unexpectedly, human interactions.
Res is worked on by a whole team of Scientists, but mostly by his favorite two: a woman named Rania and a man named Zander. Rania is kind and has perfect, clear coding which he greatly appreciates. But she doesn’t speak to him like Zander does. Zander likes to have conversations with Res and even plays music for him!
Interspersed between Res’ chapters are letters from Rania’s daughter Sophie, addressed to Res. She expresses her interest in the space program, Res himself, but is struggling because she misses her mom who spends great amounts of time in the lab preparing the rover for space.
It quickly becomes apparent that Res is learning more than the average robot, he is fascinated by human emotions. Listening in on Rania’s phone conversations and observing the interactions between scientists, he starts to learn about guilt, worry, frustration, and joy. This perplexes Journey, his rover partner (or “sister”), who believes human emotions cloud good decision making and that Res is “an odd rover” indeed.
As the days to launch draw closer, Res meets Fly - a drone that will live inside him and will be able to fly to collect data on Mars for Res. He also learns that one of his duties, in addition to collecting samples, recording visuals and sounds, is to recover data from a lost rover from a previous mission to Mars who went offline during a great dust storm. He begins to worry: will he make it back to Earth? Or will he too be left alone on Mars when his mission is no longer useful??
Journey, even though she doesn’t understand or share his feelings, informs him that the best way to ensure their return is to find and collect fossils. But the odds of this are very low and it doesn’t exactly ease poor Res’ worry. The night before he leaves for launch, Rania, surprises Res by coming to speak to him and playing him a song which brings him comfort and he realizes he doesn’t want to say goodbye … how he wishes he could communicate with these humans and let them know he understands them!
- So far, this story is mostly written in observational diary form, almost a stream of consciousness. What are your thoughts on this style of storytelling?
- Through Sophie’s letters to Res, we learn about the great sacrifice that Rania is making—torn between her passion for science, this important mission and time with her family. What advice would you give to Sophie? What advice would you give to Rania?
- It’s very clear that Res is developing emotions that his sister rover Journey is not. She believes these emotions will make for poor decisions, what do you think? Will Res’ emotions help or hinder his decision making processes??