“Oh no … oh man … I knew it. I never should have built a robot for the science fair.” Isn’t it every kid’s fantasy to build a working robot with superclaws and a laser eye? But have you really thought through the consequences of such actions?
Oh No! (Or How My Science Project Destroyed the World) is a new picture book which will hopefully teach kids to consider the potential hazards of creating giant robots. In it, a little girl wins the science fair with robot, which (naturally) goes on a rampage, destroying the city. Of course, she comes up with a great plan to stop the robot, involving a frog and a growth ray device.
The author, Mac Barnett, also wrote the hilarious The Brixton Brothers detective spoof. After reading that, I looked up some of his other books, and found that he’d written a couple of picture books. My library bought them both, and they quickly became favorites with my kids. Oh No! was just released this month, and it’s a delight. Barnett has a great way of mixing understatement with completely absurd situations.
The illustrations by Dan Santat, inspired by manga and old retro B-movie posters, are superb. The whole book has the feel of an old Japanese monster movie, down to the Japanese signs scattered throughout, but it’s also very silly—the toad’s look of utter disinterest, the dogs wearing cardboard robot suits, the other really lame science projects at the fair.
But what I really loved about the artwork is the care that went into the design of the dust jacket, the actual hardcover of the book, and the endpapers. The illustration actually wraps all the way around the cover and onto the jacket flaps. On the flip side of the dust jacket, if you remove it from the book, is a fake movie poster of the book. But the jacket-less book is far from boring: it’s a computation book, complete with stains and handwriting. And then, to top it off, the end papers show blueprints for the robot and the growth ray device, with lots of details and text. You can check out the rest of the cover art at Dan Santat’s blog.
I really liked Barnett’s other picture books, but this one in particular is a hit with my daughters, in part because the main character looks kind of like them and is clearly a smart (albeit absent-minded) girl. But even if you don’t have girls, the giant robot should be enough to grab any kid’s attention.
Wired: Giant robots, geeky girls, science fairs and eye-popping illustrations.
Tired: It’s so much fun you’ll wish it were a feature-length film, rather than a short picture book.
Disclosure: GeekDad received a review copy of this book.