Space Boy and His Dog
written by Dian Curtis Regan; illustrated by Robert Neubecker
2015 (Boyds Mills Press)
Source: Review copy provided by the publisher
Niko is the captain of his very own spaceship. He built it all by himself.
Niko and his crew, robot Radar and dog Tag, were looking for a new mission. This band of space explorers left daily from Niko's backyard in search of adventure. Niko and copilot Radar spotted a lost cat sign on a tree in the neighborhood. Maybe that cat was on the moon, thought Niko. Launch time! After landing on the moon, Niko discovered that his sister stowed away on their ship. While inconvenient, Niko thought she could be easily dismissed because she was "not in the story." The brave band of searchers set out to traverse the moon's landscape. Meanwhile, sister Posh sprinkled Tag's dog treats on a moon rock. A long exploration turned up zero evidence of a cat. When they returned to the ship, there was Posh sitting on a moon rock with the cat on her lap. For Niko and Tag, this was completely the wrong scenario. Radar was secretly happy because he liked cats better than dogs. Spurred by the unfairness of it all, Niko took the cat but banished his sister to stay on the moon. This didn't sit well with the crew as they hurtled away from the moon and Posh. Can Niko overcome his jealousy and go back to the moon for his sister?
It's very creative to take a story of sibling rivalry and place it in a space setting. I'm sure at some point in my life I would have liked some of my siblings to be off the planet. The solution is clever as well because it's not a simple matter of Niko returning to the moon and Posh being grateful for his change of heart. Dian Curtis Regan plays it much more smartly than that.
If you teach a unit on family, this would be a good book to use for discussing how we treat others in our school or family units. Niko would be a great character study. He displays several traits that could be explored. I also appreciate a book that shows children using their own imagination instead of being attached to a screen viewing someone else's imagination. Space Boy and His Dog is a fun ride!