Ping! Science now, joyrides later!
As a reading educator, I both absolutely adore and am kind of disappointed by James McGowan’s Good Night, Oppy! Illustrated by Graham Carter, this book had a serious amount of potential. A science-education focused and downright adorable fictionalized story about the Mars rover, Opportunity, sounds amazing. But, unfortunately, it had a few problems.
I always come back to this when I’m reviewing children’s books. The language in Good Night, Oppy! was advanced. This isn’t always a bad thing. Sometimes children’s books are meant to be read to children. And it’s okay that they can’t read it themselves. But I do think that there needs to be a conversation about advanced language and how to present it.
You see, Good Night, Oppy! features language like uninhabitable, transmit, roused, and enveloped. And it doesn’t explain what these words mean. Sure, parents could always define these words for their kids, but I’ll ask this: which parents are going to isolate these specific words and ask their kids if they understand what they mean? Are all the kids going to ask?
I don’t, personally, think that these words shouldn’t be part of the book. In fact, I love that they are. But I wish that the book took time to define them to the children. It’s not that hard to add “that means living beings can’t survive there” after introducing a word like uninhabitable.
The Science and the Artwork
This part of the book was phenomenal. I adored the story of Oppy’s detective and scientific work. In many ways, it was thoroughly authentic and accurate. It’s unquestionable that there is a massive opportunity for children to learn from reading a book like this. And I sincerely hope that this becomes the favorite book of many young readers. I even hope this to the point that I intend to one day have it on my shelf for my future child.
The pictures were gorgeous and illustrated Oppy’s wonderful journey in a wonderfully creative and exciting way. I have no doubt that kids are going to fall utterly in love with this adorable Mars rover. I can already imagine how wonderful it would be if there was a stuffed toy to go along with this book. It’s that perfect to me.
As An Educator
In the end, I did really love this book. And the one area in which I do find fault with the book is an area that I, as a parent, would circumvent. I would pause in the middle of the story and ask my child if they had a picture for what groundbreaking means. I would sit and have a conversation with them about how to imagine a world that’s uninhabitable. And I think, depending on the age of the child you’re reading this book to, they might already understand some of this language.
But, for non-space fanatic young readers, I do feel that certain things should’ve been explained a little better. I also probably would have made the text less dense on numerous pages, perhaps included some more artwork in order to achieve that goal. It’s a great book, don’t get me wrong. But I do feel it’s one that many parents are going to have to supplement with their kids and not all parents are going to think to do so.
I was provided a free copy of this book via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.
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