About the Holiday
International Dog Day was established in 2004 by Colleen Paige to raise awareness of all the dogs who need forever homes. The day also celebrates dogs of all breeds and honors the work of these faithful friends, whether they are family pets or specially trained as service dogs, police dogs, or search-and-rescue dogs. The month of August is also Inventor’s Month—a time when we celebrate those creative types who think differently and put their imagination to work to design new products and services we may not even know we need until we have them. The mashup of these two holidays brings us…well…today’s book!
By Marty Kelley
Ian is working on Experiment #256—a jet pack for his dog Wilbur. Ian’s room doubles as his lab, as the tools, supplies, and (especially) loose parts scattered all over attest to. Ian may be a bit messy, but with the methodical mind of any good inventor, he is taking detailed notes about his experiment in his Science Journal. While he has completed the jet pack, the entry on the fire-tinged journal page reveals: “I have quite a few parts left over.” Still, it’s time to try this marvel out.
Ian straps it onto Wilbur, pushes the remote button, and… Wilbur is flying—straight for Lisa’s Studio, where a large “Keep Out!” sign greets visitors to her room. Ian jots down thoughts about the successful launch, but also a fear about those missing parts. As Wilbur bursts through the door, Ian’s sister and all of her sheet music go flying. Thanks to the turbo booster, Wilbur only stays a moment, but is still zooming… right into Grandma’s bubble bath. This turns out to be one of those good news (the jet pack works under water)/bad news (rubber duck and Grandma are not happy) situations, which Ian dutifully notes in his journal.
But Wilbur’s flight isn’t over yet. On his way out the window and into the backyard, he grazes Mom, who’s practicing yoga. Ian learns one important fact from this part of the experiment: “Yoga pants are surprisingly flammable.” As Wilbur crashes through the garden there’s more good news in that the broccoli has suffered irreparable losses and more bad news in that the peas have not. Wilbur’s trajectory next takes him into the neighbor’s yard, where he gets “tangled up in the undies that Mrs. Marino was hanging on the line,” and then skyward.
By the time Ian catches up with him, Wilbur is only a speck at the top of a very high contrail. Ian is distressed. He documents in his journal that not only did he launch his “best friend into space,” Wilbur “doesn’t have a space helmet” and “he didn’t even bring a snack.” Meanwhile, back on earth, Mrs. Marino is still giving Ian a piece of her mind when he is suddenly cast in a saucer-shaped shadow. He looks up to find Wilbur parachuting home clinging to a pink-and-flowered pair of Mrs. Marino’s undies. Ian faithfully notes: “straps on jet pack not secure.”
Gazing into Wilbur’s goggled, angry eyes, Ian concludes that maybe Experiment #256 was not the best idea. But as any good inventor will tell you, a failed experiment is not a flop but merely an inspiration. So, while Lisa, Grandma, Mom, and Mrs. Marino may still be unhappy, Wilbur is thrilled with his new Snack Blaster. And Ian is hard at work on another, more securely strapped jet pack for….
Marty Kelley’s inventive story—told entirely through Ian’s science journal notes and hilarious illustrations—will keep readers giggling from the first page to the last. Before the story even gets going, kids are treated to a collage of laugh-out-loud photos showing thirteen of Ian’s previous experiments, providing a bit of foreshadowing about #256. Ian’s cryptic observations in his journal lead kids to follow defenseless Wilbur from room to room, yard to yard, and Earth to outer space and back while discovering the chaos wrought by Ian’s runaway jet pack. Flying objects, shocked faces, and, of course, those undies will have readers lingering over the pages to find all the comic details. Kelley’s vivid, textured, two-page spreads are full of action and give the story a retro feel while including timeless visual jokes and a kid-pleasing ending.
An imagination booster for story times when adults and kids want to share a laugh and a bit of science, Experiment #256 would be a funny addition to home, classroom, and library bookshelves.
Ages 5 – 7
Sleeping Bear Press, 2019 | ISBN 978-1534110137
Discover more about Marty Kelley, his books, and his art, visit his website.
International Dog Day Activity
I Love Dogs! Word Search Puzzle
If you love dogs, you’ll have fun discovering the names of eighteen dog breeds in this printable word search puzzle!
You can find Experiment #256 at these booksellers
Picture Book Review