Oh No! (Or How My Science Project Destroyed the World) by Mac Barnett and illustrated by Dan Santat

Cover to Oh No! (Or How My Science Project Destroyed the World) by Mac Barnett and illustrated by Dan Santat

A bright young girl runs through the chaos of demolished streets. Plumes of black smoke rise from the rubbled buildings. No one else is in sight. Oh No! (Or How My Science Project Destroyed the World) is a life lesson that everyone should receive: always take responsibility for your actions, particularly when they involve a ginormous hulking robot with the power to crush cars and shoot lasers every which way.

Usually, when my school science projects went wrong, it was more of a mild disappointment than anything else. My baking-soda-and-vinegar volcano did not erupt. I received a C- instead of a B+. These are minor hiccups when compared to our main character’s situation. Oh No! allows us to think about our own mistakes and say, “Well, it could have been worse…much, much worse.”

“I probably shouldn’t have given it a superclaw, or a laser eye, or the power to control dogs’ minds,” our hero mutters to herself. Meanwhile, the city’s pooches happily follow the path of destruction, wearing homemade cardboard robo-costumes.

Light on text, the book's real magic is in its images, which should be examined closely. The sheer amount of visual information on each page rewards the reader and had me searching for inside jokes. For example, I loved seeing the less successful science projects on display. Posters stating “Just Hamsters,” “Cup of Dirt,” or asking the haunting question “Why is my cat so obese?” are not winning the blue ribbon at this science fair, but then again, they also aren’t causing mass destruction either (Depends on the size of the cat). Dan Santat's illustrations owe a bit to Japanese monster movies, most notably Godzilla.

There are blueprints for the robot, which can be found at the front of the book. These two detailed pages alone would be ideal for any young one who's always wondered how a car/plane/massive cyborg works.

It's also always spectacular to see a strong, clever, and determined female protagonist in a children's book, a medium which at times reflects traditional gender stereotypes. I won’t tell you how the girl manages to stop her hellion of a homework assignment. Let’s just say that she could win yet another science fair with her solution. If you are looking for a whiz-bang picture book to impress scientists and thrill seekers of all ages, this is it!