BOYLE, Keri Claiborne. The Black Hole Debacle. illus. by Deborah Melmon. 32p. Sleeping Bear. Jul. 2022. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9781534111523.
Gr 1-3–A space-themed picture book about a clever girl and a pesky black hole. From the line, “Jordie’s future as an astronomer was written in the stars,” young readers will be glued to the page as they follow this astronomy enthusiast trying to control a troublesome black hole. Finding it hidden in her desk at school, Jordie struggles to stop the black hole from gobbling up everything around it! A resourceful, thoughtful, clever girl, she manages to keep things contained until it swallows her trusty dog, Neptune. She plunges into the black hole after her pup and saves the day. Full-color pencil sketches and painted backgrounds create engaging scenes. The illustrator enhances the action and adventure in the story; when objects are sucked into the black hole they become “noodled.” Long stretched-out objects and extra long wiener dogs will make kids laugh and keep them turning the pages. Standout sections include the illustrations of space, especially the cover. Melmon uses rich colors and beautiful galactic details such as constellations, planets, asteroids, and more. VERDICT Pair this fun and engaging space time hoot with read-alikes such as Jon Klassen’s The Rock from Space and Adam Rex’s Pluto Gets the Call.
Astro nut Jordie fully appreciates the gravity of the situation when a black hole appears inside her school desk.
In an episode that leaves no pun unturned, the unwelcome if exciting visitor, showing “less-than-stellar” manners, quickly gobbles down Jordie’s crayons, lunchbox, and other stuff—and worse, once she contrives to sneak it home, everything in her room (except a pair of unicorn underwear), including her dog, Neptune. There’s nothing for it but to take the plunge herself despite the discomfort of feeling her body stretching out like a noodle (a gravity effect that astrophysicists, as Boyle explains in an afterword, evocatively call being “spaghettified”) and the fact that there’s no obvious way to escape, since black holes trap even light. In the cartoon illustrations, Jordie, a light-skinned child with unruly blond hair, faces off against a growing black blot with googly eyes as her parents, her brown-skinned teacher, and her racially diverse classmates remain oblivious. Readers may wonder how she’s ever going to get out of her predicament, but, being observant as well as clever (a good combination for a budding scientist), she has a snappy solution that she pulls out of her pocket as soon as she’s gathered up her noodled pooch and other possessions. Then she boots the voracious vagrant into the sky, where it can “graze galaxies and slurp stars” to its heart’s content.
Readers will be sucked in despite the certainty of spaghettification.
To bathe or not to bathe? To Otis P. Oliver, that’s definitely not the question. Children will giggle at Otis’ tactics and back-and-forth correspondence. The expressive illustrations are humorous, energetic, and incorporate the hand-written notes, shown transcribed on pieces torn from lined notebook paper. Otis is white, chubby, and crowned with brown curls; wavy lines suggest he reeks. His family presents with various tones of pale skin and different hair colors and styles; one sister wears glasses. The skin colors, sizes, and hairstyles of Otis’ chums are diverse. Even bath-happy readers will want to hear this book. (Picture book. 4-7)
SCHOOL LIBRARY JOURNAL (April 2016): The story is a lighthearted tale of an unlikely friendship. Bright Illustrations and cute characters will make this a favorite with young readers - especially pet lovers.
Honored to receive this rave review from Celebrate Picture Books