Top critical review
I had high hopes for this book, but was so disappointed.
Reviewed in the United States on June 4, 2019
I had really high hopes for this book. Pete Oswald's illustrations are fantastic (as always) and really drew me in. My kids (right in the target demographic for this book) were also very intrigued by the illustrations. Plus it's a storybook about facts for kids, which is an interesting concept and something that is really needed in the children's book space today.
But then I read it. It just did not live up to my (admittedly high) expectations. I was hoping for one of those clever, perhaps even somewhat funny, books that is both a delight to read as a parent and a delight to listen to for a child. Unfortunately, this book struck out. The story line is just not very interesting, and many of the elements used are so heavy handed it's almost absurd (but not "haha, this is fun and we're laughing" absurd). A very simple story can work (check out the Mac Barnett's Shape Trilogy), but this one fell flat. In what is probably the most heavy handed decision in the book, the villains are actually called "the Authorities."
Here's a plot synopsis: A sad little fact gets ignored and then locked up by the Authorities, along with a bunch of other facts. The Authorities then make a bunch of lies and try to convince everyone that those are the real facts (heavy handed again, they do it by saying "These ARE the facts." when people ask where the facts are). The facts are rescued and dug up by some fact finders, they make it out into the light of day where they can brighten the world once more, and happily proclaim "a fact is a fact!" The people who want to ignore facts walk off "in a huff," and the people "with minds to think and a need to know the truth" see that facts can't be denied.
I also didn't like the ending very much. I was glad it ended with the facts getting out into the light of day, but the implication that the people who don't agree with them don't have "minds to think" is a pretty dangerous message. I think there are a lot of people out there who end up being duped by charlatans or fall prey to poor logic or really snazzy fake news campaigns-- but most of those people aren't non-thinkers who are purposely trying to ignore all facts and I don't like that message for my kids. It's *too* devoid of nuance, even for young children, because it sets them up to dehumanize the people they may disagree with or who are not seeing facts properly. That kind of oversimplified rhetoric is not helpful to our society, and is something I usually associate with smug jerks (even when I agree with those jerks!). I'll pass on trying to teach it to my young kids.