Ralph Masiello, author & illustrator
Ralph Masiello—affectionately known as 'The Icky Bug Man'—has illustrated several children's books including The Icky Bug Alphabet Book, The Yucky Reptile Alphabet Book, and The Flag We Love. His oil paintings are remarkably rich and realistic and bring to life the subjects of his books—be they bugs, flags, dinosaurs, or well-hidden messages and secret drawings.
Read more about Ralph.
As with previous titles in this series, Masiello offers budding artists a step-by-step tutorial on how to draw kid-friendly subjects—this time, robots. After beginning with a basic "Simplibot," made up of rectangles, squares, and circles, the robots build in complexity, with additions like electrical outlets, keyholes, and antennae, all meticulously labeled in a "Spare Parts Warehouse." The "upgraded" robots, colored in various media and paired with a simple phrase or verse, include "Sparky Springbot," with pincers and slinkylike legs, and "Bakerbot," who has a small oven for chest. Masiello's recipe is light and appealing, offering just the right amount of guidance.
Masiello elegantly and joyfully taps into a thankfully enduring artistic tradition: the step-by-step technique that walks readers by hand through the creation of an image on paper.
Just as he has done previously for dinosaurs, dragons and bugs (Ralph Masiello's Dragon Drawing Book, 2007, etc.), here he guides young artists in the creation of robots—“ ’bots,” in the vernacular, as in “Squarehead Thinbot,” “Sparky Springbot” and “Zoidbot.” The artist starts by introducing readers to lines and shapes—nothing is taken for granted—from which can be drawn an elemental robot. He then provides a serious handful of “spare parts,” which can be used to add detail to readers’ creations. The spare-part section is good for sparking the imagination, but the best sparks are thrown by the finished products, which are cool in their radical colors and otherworldliness but not daunting (even if readers are not likely to attain his level of gradients and shadings). Robots are by nature somewhat scary, with their dead, sharklike eyes and sharp edges, and Masiello keeps that spooky quality. But he also knows how to invest them with humor: witness the “Bakerbot,” with a muffin cooking in its belly.
Brainstorming—a book that ought to launch a thousand robots.
Masiello encourages readers to follow his lead in drawing the “hulking, clumsy” robots that fascinated him as a child. The book’s opening pages show basic shapes and lines as well as a “Spare Parts Warehouse” indicating how to a draw a number of “robot upgrades” such as switches and gauges. Many kids will go directly to the 10 colorful robots featured, choosing one to draw and following the step-by-step directions for re-creating designs such as “Zoidbot” and “Walking TinCanBot.” The excellent appended “Resources” page recommends robot-themed books and websites. A fun addition to the Ralph Masiello’s Drawing Book series.
School Library Journal
Masiello begins with a discussion of how to use circles, squares, and other basic forms to draw robot parts like switches, plugs, and antennae. He includes a brief discussion of drawing and coloring tools and shows young artists how to draw eight different robots, such as the "Bakerbot," "Ovalbot," and "Bellybot." The robots are shown in progressive steps of completion opposite a full-page illustration of the finished product, fully colored, and with a short, lighthearted caption. Sidebars with suggestions for more advanced embellishments appear on some pages. The instructions are simple enough for primary-grade students to have success without adult assistance. Masiello's creations are humorous, old-fashioned, and two dimensional. Artists who are looking for the more sophisticated, warrior-type robots will need to look elsewhere; there are no swords or laser guns here. Children interested in the friendly, playmate kind of robot will enjoy Masiello's offering.
Masiello gets it right again in the sixth book in his series of step-by-step drawing books—this one has several robot characters and variations. As usual, these are not explorations in drawing as a higher art form; Masiello’s method is to get everyone on the same page by having them copy his illustrations, then elaborate on them using his suggestions, and then find their own ways to use the characters that develop. Beginning and less-confident artists needing progressive instruction and lots of encouragement, will find this book appealing, exciting, and manageable. The topic (robots) is of interest to the same age readers that could understand the directions.
Page count: 32
8 1/2 x 11