Once Upon a Story
August 3, 2015

Hey, you know what happens when the school year ends, and then you travel for the first 3 weeks in July, and then you come home and run a camp for 115 kids?

*blows dust off blog*

Eesh. Okay. But I’m back with something to share, see!

(P.S. How’s YOUR summer going?)


Space Boy and His Sister Dog by Dian Curtis Regan, illustrated by Robert Neubecker

Published by:Boyds Mill Press

Release date: April 2015

Ages: 4-7

Pages: 32

From the publisher: Niko may live on boring old Planet Home (Earth) with his family, but that doesn’t stop him from having big adventures in space. With a box from his backyard and a little imagination, he flies off into the galaxy, accompanied by his robot, Radar, and his dog, Tag. Who’s not invited on this voyage? His annoying sister, Posh, who seems to pop up at the most inconvenient times. In this first (mis)adventure, Niko and trusty crew (and possibly a sisterly stowaway) fly to the moon in search of a lost cat. Illustrated in a comic-book style, with panels and speech bubbles, this picture book—the first in a series—will captivate boys and girls alike.

My thoughts:

We’re super into spaceships around here. Really, we’re into anything that moves–cars, trains, planes, spaceships, boats. If it moves, and you can make a (loud) noise to go with it, my 3.5yo can tell you about it. But beyond spaceships and space exploration, there are two other themes central to this story.

Imagination. It’s made apparent to the reader from the very first page that this spaceship is imaginary. We see Niko building it, see it’s cardboard construction, see the backyard setting. We even see the little robot co-pilot he’s constructed to accompany him on his journey. After the first few pages, however, we are taken on a ride through Niko’s imaginative play. The rocket becomes real, as does the robot co-pilot, and the setting changes from the backyard into deep space, with Earth fading into the distance. It’s not until the end of the story, when Niko returns safely home, that the reader is brought back to the backyard reality.

Siblings. I have a daughter and a son, a little over 2.5 years apart. They are the absolute best of playmates. Until they’re not, and suddenly they’re beating on each other and screaming for my intervention. I’m guessing both Regan and Neubecker know this scenario. At the start of the book, we’re introduced to Niko and his spaceship invention. We then meet his sister, Posh. But, we are informed, “..she is not in this story.”  Or so Niko thinks. Despite his best efforts to shake her off, Posh keeps popping up. Eventually, our frustrated Niko leaves Posh behind on the moon. He’s soon overcome by guilt, though, and returns to rescue her–only to find out that Posh doesn’t need rescuing. It’s a classic love-hate sibling relationship that plays out a dozen times a day in households all over the world.

Apart from the themes, the other thing I like about this book is the blended formats. It is, without a doubt, a picture book. But this book has eight short “chapters,” each one its own plot event. While it can still be read in a single sitting, it’s a nice (very early) introduction to the next step. Additionally, the story is illustrated in a combination of full spread illustrations and comic format, with multiple frames on each page. The occasional speech bubble is interspersed amongst the text. There’s so much to see and discuss on each page and little elements like the detailed facial expressions take the text to a whole other level

Boyds Mill (which is the book imprint of the well-known Highlights Magazine) is a small press, selective with the limited number of books they publish each year.  But that means you can get some real gems that might otherwise go unnoticed. This is one of them. I’m happy to add this to our shelves, though I doubt it’ll spend much time there.


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