________________ CM . . . . Volume XVII Number 8. . . .October 22, 2010.


The Daily Comet: Boy Saves Earth from Giant Octopus.

Frank Asch. Illustrated by Devin Asch.
Toronto, ON: Kids Can Press, 2010.
32 pp., hardcover, $18.95.
ISBN 978-1-55453-281-0.

Grades 1-5 / Ages 6-10.

Review by Sylvia Pantaleo.





Hayward liked facts. Plain, simple, scientific facts.

On "Go to Work with a Parent Day," Hayward Palmer accompanies his journalist father, Roger, to The Daily Comet. Fact-loving Hayward is solid in his conviction that his father's newspaper publishes fictitious stories. The editor-in-chief assigns Hayward's father to a breaking story at the Museum of Natural History: a dinosaur egg is about to hatch. Alfonzo, a newspaper reporter who looks like Elvis, accompanies Hayward and his father to the museum. Hayward is confident that the event is a publicity stunt organized by his father to convince his son that The Daily Comet publishes phenomena that are factual in nature. The egg-hatching event is followed by a quick trip to Times Square to investigate the sighting of a ten-foot chicken. The trio rides in a taxi driven by a Bigfoot named Sam. Along the journey, Sam communicates his thanks to Roger and Alfonzo because their feature article about him in The Daily Comet resulted in Sam's enrolling in the "Bigfoot Relocation Program." Hayward once again communicates his skepticism to his father, stating that Sam is "just some guy in a hairy costume."

     After surveying the damage caused by the oversized fowl and interviewing a few bystanders, Roger and Alfonzo pursue the ten-foot chicken into the subway. Hayward, who stays above ground, is about to buy himself some lunch when he hears a salesman claiming to sell the "most amazing beverage ever!" Upon the man's request, members of the crowd offer metal objects. He deposits the items into a glass, but when a few drops of a green elixir are poured over them, the metal objects are transformed to liquid. The salesman consumes the drink, claiming it to be delicious! When people push forward demanding back their metal objects, the brown bottle of elixir falls to the ground. Hayward picks up the container, intending to trade it for his pocketknife that he gave the salesman. However, his actions are interrupted by Alfonzo who shows Hayward a photograph of Roger and the gigantic chicken in the subway. Suddenly, everyone is gesturing toward the sky, shouting about a gigantic flying cup and saucer plummeting toward Central Park.

     Hayward believes the UFO stunt is a "promotion for a new sci-fi movie." An enormous metallic octopus emerges from the teacup and proceeds to cause havoc. Hayward looks about the chaotic scene but finds no evidence (i.e. movie directors, cameras, lights) to support his hypothesis that the event is contrived. Unexpectedly, the octopus wraps two of its gigantic mechanical tentacles around Hayward and his father. Fortunately, Hayward still has the bottle of elixir in his pocket, and when he pours the contents over the octopus, all that remains is a very large green puddle.

     internal artOf course, the photograph that Alfonzo snapped of Hayward and the octopus appears on the front page of the next issue of The Daily Comet. When Hayward shares the article with his peers as part of his report about going to work with a parent, his story is met with skepticism. Hayward must now defend the authenticity of a story in The Daily Comet. The next student to share her report on "Go to Work with a Parent Day" is someone whose father is a taxicab driver ...

     The humourous picture book is parodic in several ways. The Asch team imitates the sensational nature of tabloid headlines, playing with several classic stories and pop culture references, such as Elvis sightings, Bigfoot, UFO sightings, and mysterious elixirs. The photorealistic illustrations are reminiscent of the 1950s and suggestive of images from low budgeted monster movies. The use of Adobe Photoshop has created the effect of multilayered photographs. Green and yellow highlights accent the overwhelmingly sepia-toned illustrations in the picture book. The artwork, except for the final illustration, spreads across the verso and recto, and the text is seemingly superimposed on torn pages from a newspaper. The size and font style used for the first line of text on each page create the effect of a newspaper headline.

     Readers will also note cameo appearances of other familiar characters throughout the book. The grey-toned panoramic view of New York City on the end pages foreshadows a particular event in the picturebook, as well as features the Empire State Building and an infamous creature swimming in the water. The photograph on the back of the dust jacket and cover of the book provides fodder for another tabloid headline (or hoax)!


Sylvia Pantaleo teaches courses in Language Arts in the Faculty of Education, the University of Victoria, BC.

To comment on this title or this review, send mail to cm@umanitoba.ca.

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