Preschool to Grade 2 (Annick Press, 2014)
Rafa Was My Robot, written by Alexandra Dellevoet, is a kind and honest book about love and loss. Jacob has a robot he adores and Ken Turner’s illustrations show how much Rafa loves Jacob back. The robot’s one-of-a-kind battery is a large red heart the boy holds in his hands. Jacob takes Rafa everywhere–to swim lessons, to school, to other countries and other galaxies. But, eventually, Rafa’s one-of-a-kind battery begins to fail. The doctor can’t fix Rafa and there is nothing Jacob can do. Rafa dies.
The young boy’s grief is respectful and true. “Jacob cried and cried, until he filled the tub with all his sadness. He wondered how he would go on without Rafa.” Dellevoet provides a window to Jacob’s sadness without offering platitudes. We watch as Jacob builds a memorial for Rafa and as he makes a Rafa-shaped pillow. Jacob promises the Rafa pillow that he will meet him in his dreams.
It’s not often in North America that we see a book with this level of honesty about death. My seven-year-old read my copy before me. She took it in stride, declaring it to be “a good book.” It was only upon reading it myself that I realized the book’s theme. My daughter’s reaction surprised me and that caused me to wonder why. I’m glad she had a chance to engage with this story before she needed it. I’m glad other children will have the chance to engage with this book too. We all need it.
Review originally published in Canadian Children’s Book News, Winter 2015.