Module 6: Oh No! (Or How My Science Project Destroyed the World)

Barnett, M. (2010). Oh No! (Or How My Science Project Destroyed the World). New York, NY: Hyperion Books.

Genre: Picture book. Not exactly realistic, but not exactly speculative either. Good for all ages, though older kids will “get” the humor better, I think.

Book Summary: A girl’s science project, a robot, escapes from the science fair and destroys the city because she forgot to program overrides on it. So, she creates a giant frog to defeat the robot, which (unfortunately) causes almost more problems than the robot.

Impressions: In looking up readalikes, I noticed that a good number of books about robots feature boys, so three cheers for Santat for making the main character of this book a girl! (Barnett doesn’t specify a gender in the book, as it’s written in the first person.) I have long been a fan of Barnett’s humor, but I think it’s downplayed in this book. The narrator is exasperated and kind of practical : “I probably shouldn’t have done this” and “Looks like I’m going to have to fix this.”  The humor in this book, the outlandishness, comes from Santat’s illustrations. Without them, the book holds no punch. I am not a fan of old monster movies, so I missed a lot of the details, but there’s still a lot to look at in each picture on every page. Perhaps, ultimately, the humor is in the over the top idea: that a kid could actually program a robot and then create a toad to stop the robot. It’s basically every kid’s dream, to be powerful enough to “conquer” the world, isn’t it?

Review: Publisher’s Weekly gave Oh No! a starred review, calling it a seamless collaboration between Barnett’s simple text and Santat’s homage to old Japanese monster movies. The review pointed out details that I missed, like the blurring of the image and text when the robot stomps. It also went on to say that there was “wicked humor” and admonished kids not to try this at home, even though there are “blueprints” in the end papers.

Staff. (2010). Book reviews. Publishers Weekly. 257 (19), 41-44. Retrieved from:

Library Uses: I would use this as a springboard for a STEM activity, discussing exactly how the girl would program the robot and then segue into simple coding with Scratch.


  • Wild Robot by Peter Brown: Not a picture book, but a fantastic story of a robot who ends up on a deserted island and figures out how to survive and communicate with animals. It is a delightful story and makes for a great read-aloud.
  • Robosauce by Adam Rubin:  A boy who wants to create a robot ends up taking a special “sauce” that not only turns the main character into a robot, but (thanks to a wrap around extra cover tucked into the book) turns the whole book into a robot.
  • Little Robot by Ben Hatke:  An almost wordless younger graphic novel follows a lonely girl who finds a robot in a junkyard and fixes it up so she can have a friend. Another great robot book featuring  a girl main character, who isn’t afraid to get dirty and be innovative.

Module 3: The Adventures of Beekle

Santat, D. (2014). The Adventures of Beekle: The Unimaginary Friend. New York, NY: Little, Brown, and Company.

Genre: Picture book, imagination stories, and Caldecott winner. I have no objections to this at all.

Book Summary:  An imaginary creature is born on a magical island and waits to be chosen as a friend, imagining all the fun things that they will do. When that doesn’t happen, he sets off  to find his friend, ending up in the top of a tree. He waits until his friend comes along and gives him his name: Beekle. They then proceed to have a number of wonderful adventures together.

Impressions: (Full disclosure: I met Dan last fall, when he was out for school visits for After the Fall, and he was one of the most fun and delightful people I’ve met. That has probably influenced my view of this book.)  I thought The Adventures of Beekle was a sweet story, one that had a right amount of challenge — Beekle being determined to find his friend — suspense — will he find his friend? — and a very cute, hopeful resolution. I really liked the whole package as well, from the endpapers with everyone’s different imaginary friend, to the range of colors that Santat uses throughout the book. It’s telling that the magical world is in bright colors, but the real world in more muted grays and blues (until he gets the playground, of course; adults are boring!). It’s also very poignant that the world become brighter and more colorful after Beekle finds his friend. I know that Santat is a digital artist, and it amazes me that he drew everything on a tablet and colored it in digitally; it not only shows how far technology has come, but how talented he is to be able to get the range he does. It truly is a delightful book.

Review: The School Library Journal gave The Adventures of Beekle a starred review, writing, “Santat’s attention to detail in the mixed-media illustrations shares a child’s eye for laughter and movement on full-bleed spreads with strategically placed text.” Interestingly enough, while Publisher’s Weekly gave it a glowing review, they felt that the third-person narrative, with no dialogue, slowed the book down.

School Library Journal (SLJ). (2015, February 2). SLJ reviews of 2015 youth media award-winning publications. Retrieved from:

Staff. (2014). Children’s reviews. Publishers Weekly.  261 (4), n.p. Retrieved

Library Uses: This one is perfect for a storytime on friendship, imagination, or even one featuring Caldecott winners.


  • We Forgot Brock by Carter Goodrich: Another imaginary friend story, though in this one, the imaginary friend gets left at the fair and it’s up to the boy to rescue his friend. Another delightful story of friendship, even if other people can’t see them.
  • My Friend is Sad by Mo Willems: In which Piggie sees that Gerald is sad, and because Piggie is such a good friend, tries to cheer him up, with no success. It turns out that’s because Gerald wants to share the exciting things with his best friend, Piggie. With a sly sense of humor — kids love being more in the know than Gerald — this teaches that 1) it’s okay to be sad sometimes and 2) we all need friends.
  • Not a Stick by Antoinette Portis: A simple story illustrating all the fun things a simple stick can be when you use a little imagination.There is a lot to discuss, as each picture illustrates something different, while the text is pretty plain. Great for inspiring imagination, though.


Module 2: The Middle Moffat

Estes. E. (1942). The Middle Moffat. New York, NY: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.

Genre: Classic, realistic fiction. It is definitely a classic, not only because it was published more than 70 years ago, but also because it won a Newbery Honor, thereby bestowing upon it “classic” status. I’m not sure I entirely agree with that, but will discuss that more later. It is definitely realistic fiction, as there is no fantasy elements.

Book Summary:  Jane Moffat is the third of four Moffat children, but has decided that she’s the “middle one”, because she’s neither the oldest or the youngest or the oldest son (which describe her three siblings). Over the course of a year, Jane has a myriad of experiences as the Moffats get used to their new house after the death of their father: she makes, loses, and regains a best friend; she develops a good relationship with the town’s “oldest citizen” (he’s 99!); she plays  on a basketball team; and she better figures out her role in her family. 

Impressions: I desperately wanted to like this one. I generally do like stories like this: I adore All of a Kind Family and read the Betsy-Tacy books to all my daughters. I don’t mind the historical setting; I often find it fascinating to see how authors perceive their present and recent past (I’m thinking this was set in the 1930s, though I may be wrong). However, this one just didn’t click with me.  Perhaps it was because I just finished Beezus and Ramona before diving into this one, but Jane just fell flat. Even though I intellectually could see that Estes was trying to be humorous, like when the Moffats received a hand-me-down organ, and Jane was instant on having an organ recital, which ultimately failed due to overuse and because the organ was filled with moths. That, to be fair, should be funny. But, it just didn’t work for me. Intellectually, I could see that Jane was sweet and charming and tried hard, and  I wanted to like her and be interested in her experiences, but I just found I didn’t care. I can see value in the book; there are children who love this sort of story, and perhaps if I had read it when I was younger, I would have as well. 

Review: It was challenging finding a review of a book this old. I went with a blog post, from Into the Book, in which the reviewer gave The Middle Moffat a glowing review, stating “This book is a series of snapshots of these escapades, brilliantly portrayed in a way that draws readers in, and connects them to the lovable, clumsy ten-year old’s world.”  Additionally, she loved the serial nature of the book, and praised Estes’ writing, saying “What I love about Estes’s writing is that she grabs hold of those indescribable childlike emotions and impulses we all have experienced, masterfully putting them into words, capturing moments that allow us to re-live those happy Christmas mornings, those victories in an all-important sports competition, those moments when we make up with our best friend after a fight.”

Joyce, A. (2013, December 14). The Middle Moffat. Retrieved from:

Library Uses: It would be great in a display of classic books, Newbery books, or one one about stories featuring families. 


  • The Penderwicks by Jane Birdsall: A more contemporary version of the Moffats, the Penderwicks are four sisters who have Mishaps and Adventures and are Absolutely Delightful. This one is similar in tone and subject, but has a more contemporary feel. 
  • All of  a Kind Family by Sydney Taylor:  Set in a slightly early time period than the Moffats, around World War I, this is the story of an immigrant Jewish family living in the Lower East Side of New York. They have a similar dynamic as the Moffat siblings, and the books are similarly about every day life.
  • The Misadventures of the Family Fletcher by Dana Alison Levy: Another contemporary family book, this one with all boys and LGBT themes, as the parents are a gay couple. It deals with the every day lives of the Fletcher family, but with a diverse twist.


Module 1: Open This Little Book

Klausmeier, J. (2013). Open This Little Book. San Francisco, CA: Chronicle Books.

Genre: This book was listed as a picture book about books, and one one level, I agree with that. But it’s also a picture book about stories (which is different from books) and storytelling. One could also use this book to talk about colors as well. It is a good  representation of books about books, and one that could engender discussion about stories and books with children.

Book Summary: The story about someone who opens a succession of increasingly smaller, and differently colored \ books, until they get to the smallest book which a giant tries to read, but can’t because her hands are too large. Animal friends help, and the books close until the reader is invited to read another book. 

Impressions: I thought this book was absolutely charming. I loved the diminishing sizes of the books, plus how the illustrations for each book matched the color of the book. For example, the green book has a green frog inside, on green lily pads, near a green pond. I also loved the smaller details: the ladybug from the red book shows up in the green book, and the frog and the ladybug show up in the orange book, and so on, giving the book, which may seem disjointed at first, some continuity. I was a little disappointed that the books weren’t in ROYGBIV order (that would have been a fun detail!) but when all the books were open, it’s a colorful and inviting image that will definitely make any reader smile. 

Review: Publishers Weekly reviewed Open This Little Book in the January 2013 issue calling it a “conceptual novel” (Staff, 2013) more than a story. The staff reviewer appreciated the design and the layout of the book, calling it “charming” (Staff, 2013), and suggesting that the book, overall, makes a point about how readers can have a relationship like friendship with books.

Staff. (2013, Jan 7). Children’s Reviews. Publishers Weekly. 260(1), n.a. Retrieved

Library Uses: I think this book would be a bit challenging to use in a story time (because the middle books are so tiny), but it would be great in either a display on books about books or books about colors. 


  • It’s a Book by Lane Smith, which, while snarkier, has the same sense of instruction and introduction to the world of books as Open This Little Book.
  • Open Very Carefully: A Book with Bite by Nick Bromley, illustrated by Nicola O’Byrne is also humorous and interactive in a similar way to Open This Little Book, inviting the reader to participate in the story rather than being a passive observer.  
  • Eating a Rainbow by Lois Ehlert is a fantastic book about colors, and would be a good compliment to the color aspect of Open This Little Book.


by J. J. Abrams and Doug Dorst
First sentence: “If found, please return to the workroom B19, Main Library, Pollard State University.”
Support your local independent bookstore: buy it there!
Content: Language, including lots of f-bombs. And some violence. It’s in the adult section of the bookstore.

The thing that piqued my interest about this book was the buzz about the form. We had a sample copy and I perused through it. The format — a book published in 1948, stolen from a high school library, with notes scribbled in the margins — was intriguing. Enough so, that I bought myself a copy for Christmas, and eagerly dove in. It IS an intriguing concept, reading someone else’s notes, figuring out the story as you go.

It’s an incredibly layered book: the “book” is one Ship of Theseus, written by the mysterious V. M. Straka. A book where the main character, S., has amnesia, and goes on a journey to figure out who he really is. In doing so, he finds out that he was involved with some shady figures. The second layer is the work that a disenfranchised grad student, Eric, is doing to figure out the real identity of V. M. Straka. All that’s really known about him is that he was involved in this mysterious organization, the S. Eric gets help on this quest from a struggling undergrad, Jen, who finds Ship of Theseus laying in the stacks and begins a conversation. Which brings me to layer three: Jen and Eric’s story. They work together, and over the course of the book, develop their own relationship.

I realized fairly early on that the layers were too dense for me. I couldn’t hold everything in my mind, for starters. I ended up giving up the main Ship of Theseus story, partially because it was boring, but also because I just couldn’t keep multiple storylines in my head. Call it being out of practice, or lack of interest, but I just couldn’t do it. But there was also the fact that the story’s told  inside out and backward. I did think that maybe if I had read it in shifts — read Ship of Theseus first, then the inked-comments, then maybe it would have made sense.

So, in the end, this was all form and no substance. In the end, all the thrills, chills, and mystery They were promising weren’t there. It was a simple story, one that tries to give grad school a mystique and make it cool (it doesn’t succeed). It did succeed in being a homage to paper books — there’s no way this would make a decent e-book. But it wasn’t much else.

And in the end, I found that disappointing.