Review By ANDREA ZOLLMAN
The words “reduce, reuse and recycle” have served as the battle cry of environmentalists for years and are worthy concepts to teach to the youngest of children, but how? One way is to show them through action: recycling cans, bottles, and paper products; reusing plastic bags and containers; and purchasing items in bulk and cooking from scratch rather than buying products with disposable packaging.
Another way to reinforce these lessons includes reading great books that demonstrate the concepts through story. Chris Gall, author and illustrator of Substitute Creacher and There’s Nothing to Do on Mars, presents reusing old materials and creating something fantastically new with them in his recent picture book Awesome Dawson. As in Substitute Creacher, Gall offers a cautionary tale, although not as dark.
Meet Dawson, a kid who loves to collect junk. Anything that’s broken or discarded appeals to his sense of creativity. Ever since infancy, he’s had a propensity for turning junk into something useful: a hat, a space helmet, and a motorboat are some of his creations. As he says, “Everything can be used again,” and even his parents agree that it’s great to help keep their neighborhood clean.
He invites readers into his secret workshop. It’s cluttered with items most people would consider junk, but not Dawson.
While tinkering with Mooey, a Frankenstein-like creature with the head of a toy cow and an interchangeable body, Dawson’s mother asks him if he’s finished his chores. Instead of answering her, he connects an old vacuum cleaner to a rake, a broom, a watering can, and some other objects to build a robot that will finish his chores for him. He hands it a list of chores and turns on the power.
Instead of doing Dawson’s chores, it inhales everything in his workshop. It bursts through the workshop ceiling and sucks up everything within reach, including his father’s car. Dawson jumps in his airplane (made by him, of course), and chases it through the city. Unfortunately, he’s sucked inside the vacuum before he can stop it.
Dawson’s ability to stop the robot before it destroys the city looks bleak. He escapes, but he now sees that he can use old objects to find creative ways of doing his own chores, which still leaves time to come up with more fantastic ways to repurpose junk.
Gall’s comic-book style illustrations will appeal to all, especially kids who enjoy more pictures than text in their books. Each page is fully illustrated with only one or two lines of text, and all dialogue appears in speech bubbles, making this a fun and easy read for all ages.
The publisher provided a review copy.