The Mystery of the Square Footprints: A Book Experience

You know how most back to school crafts and ideas have to do with pencils and apples and other school-related items? Yeah, well, my back to school theme is robots. I mean, how many apple crafts can you really do? Here’s my September bulletin board:

(I blocked out the name of the program.)

When it comes to my job, I’m a pseudo planner. As in I basically know what I want to do and mostly plan, but I leave lots of room for creating in the moment activities. For instance, I had a robot puppet craft planned out and even made the example.

Robot Puppets. Not pictured: my example

However, when it came to story time, I just grabbed a random book in our cabinet that had a robot on the cover. It was a library discard (I love that we inherit old books that way!!) and reading it aloud to the kids was the first time I’d ever read it at all. The book was The Mystery of the Square Footprints by Kalil Gezi and Ann Bradford (illustrated by Mina Gow McLean), published in 1980.

Let’s talk about this AMAZING book and my ridiculous experience of reading it aloud. I had to keep stopping because I’d either be laughing at the action or the illustrations. I even apologized to the kids for doing such a terrible job reading the story with all my side notes. Meanwhile, it wasn’t actually terrible at all because we had a great time and laughed together a lot. Okay, so the book….

First of all, it’s called The Mystery of the Square Footprints, but it appears the mystery is solved on the front cover!


To be fair as you read, you realize that there is more to this mystery than who/what made the footprints.

We were wondering if the real mystery is why this robot has a human nose?


At the point in the story where the kids find the robot, I had to pause and explain that in 1980, there weren’t robots all over the place like today. Like, there was no self-checkout robot in the grocery store or that the robot your parents use at the gas station didn’t exist. No cell phones, let alone smart phones. So finding a random robot on the beach in 1980 would have been super weird. The kids sat there, eyes wide, trying to imagine that world.

My absolute favorite illustration is this one showing the girls doing the dangerous work while the boys hang back near the cave exit. Don’t worry boys, the girls will subdue this potentially harmful robot!


I paused the the story to make that point to the kids and said “strong girls rock!” All the girls got wide smiles on their faces. A fourth grade boy even stood up, pumped his fist in the air, and repeated genuinely, “YEAH! Strong girls rock!” That made me more than a little happy.

The book also features a black, female scientist, so that’s pretty rad!

“My mother works in the science lab… Maybe she can tell us what kind of robot this is.”

But however smart the adults are, they are doing some odd stuff, like hiding in bushes and peering through windows intsead of knocking on doors.


After all the loose ends are tied up, a scientist invites all the kids to the science lab the next day, like you do when you are involved in a robot recovery mission in the forest, at night, with five random children.

The big ending is that the robot serves the kids lunch at the science lab cafeteria.  One of my third grade girls thought that was pretty funny. She took one of our robot color sheets, altered it to look like the robot from the book, and made a lunch tray for it to carry. Score!


Another side effect of reading this book is that a third grader, whose nickname is Jayden the Robot, really wanted to serve everyone lunch. We happened to have an early dismissal day (which is a long day at the after school program) where we ordered pizza that week and *BOOM* Jayden’s robot waiter dreams came true.

I would totally recommend this book!





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