There is no magic in Hayward’s world. He is a little boy who cares only about facts, facts, facts. As such, Hayward has little patience for his dad, a so-called reporter for New York City’s Daily Comet, a so-called newspaper.
“You want me to work on a follow-up to the flying spaghetti monster story?” his dad asks the editor.
“Not today. There’s a hot item just breaking at the Museum of Natural History. One of the dinosaur eggs cracked and is about to hatch! Have final copy on my desk by three o’clock.”
Although bring-your-child-to-work day has only just begun, the boy has already had enough of this fakery: “Hayward rolled his eyes so far back in his head he could almost see his brain.”
He’s a thoughtful child, a critical reader who doesn’t believe everything he sees in print, and his story’s well told in Boy Saves Earth From Giant Octopus!, by Frank Asch and Devin Asch (2010, blue dot, suggested ages 3 to 6). (Indeed, Hayward’s skepticism is the reaction many people have to rightwing American journalist-slash-pundit Ann Coulter. There’s certainly a lot of critical reading skills required for her tome Godless: The Church Of Liberalism, 2006, filed in nonfiction at 320. But as with any polemicist, Coulter’s prodding also brings out the contradictions inherent in some of her opponents’ arguments. The book tackles topics such as crime, religion, abortion, education and evolution, and the author has a sense of humour: “What a stunning rhetorical riposte, sir! I say, you’ve cut me to the quick! The incisive thrust of your logical cutlass has struck me to the bone! Alas, I fear the wound is fatal! Oh, untimely death!” Coulter also writes: “Liberals’ idea of harmony is: Democrats win everything all the time and no one else can talk.” Of course, the more recent Tea Party my-way-or-the-highway take on politics has been very loud, and further polarized the United States’ political scene.)
Still, a reporter’s work is never done. Hayward’s dad and a photographer must hail a cab to get to their next assignment. The cabbie is Sam. He’s very large and very hairy.
Yikes! He’s Bigfoot! A phony, thinks Hayward. Pfuit. (The real Bigfoot, as everyone knows, lives in British Columbia. His story’s told in Barnabas Bigfoot: A Close Shave, by Marty Chan, 2011, and filed in juvenile fiction. The problem with 12-year-old, seven-foot-tall Barnabas, however, is that his feet are so humiliatingly tiny that he wears bulky fakes. This to protect him from bullying. But one day, Barnabas is sighted and captured by baldfaces – human beings, that is. It’s a… hair-raising experience. I moustache you if you are prepared for this punny book [the first in a series], an environmental manifesto braided into hairdo’s and don’ts.)
In any case, Hayward is left behind as his dad rushes off to another, far more dangerous assignment: tracking down a rampaging giant chicken. “Turns out this chicken wasn’t so dangerous after all,” Hayward’s father explains upon his return. “In fact, she’s a Latin scholar and a math whiz. But she does have some anger management problems due to her unusual size.”
“Sure,” says Hayward. “And the moon is made of green cheese.” (Check out Laura Vaccaro Seeger’s First The Egg, 2007, blue dot, for a regularly sized egg… and the chicken that then hatches from it! And frogs come from tadpoles, and flowers from seeds. And stories, from words. And finally, from a chicken comes… an egg. No dinosaurs here, however.)
As Hayward’s day at his dad’s work continues, he looks up into the sky and sees a giant tea cup and saucer, carrying a humungous metal octopus. This extra-terrestrial monster has come to steal the water from the Earth’s oceans.
When it snatches up Hayward in its tentacles, the little boy’s doubts begin to fade. This horrible mess is all too real. Can he save himself, and the world?
And Hayward ends up on the front page of the Daily Comet.
– Eleanor Brown, April 11, 2014