Meet Zig, an alien, and Wikki, his sidekick. Zig is in the soup with his teacher for failing to turn in the latest homework assignment: bringing in a pet for the class zoo. When a wrong turn leads Zig and Wikki to Earth instead of grandma’s house, the boys decide to capture an Earth animal for their assignment. There’s just one problem: all of their potential pets are feistier and faster than they look!
Zig and Wikki in Something Ate My Homework
By Nadja Spiegelman and Trade Loeffler
Ages 6 – 8
2010, Toon Books, ISBN: 978-1935179023
40 pp., $12.95
Zig and Wikki is an entertaining addition to the Toon Books line, if not quite in the same league as Stinky or Benny and Penny in Just Pretend. Trade Loeffler’s art is bold and appealing, and helps bring the principal characters’ Mutt-and-Jeff relationship to life. Nadja Spiegelman’s script, on the other hand, is clever but a little aimless; the book could have been eight or ten pages shorter without doing violence to the basic concept.
The humor, in particular, is a mixed bag. Though kids may laugh at Zig and Wikki’s reactions to familiar animals, other jokes will be lost on the book’s intended audience. After Wikki is zapped with a shrink ray, for example, his dialogue appears in teeny print. It’s a cute gag, but less proficient readers may struggle with the small font size, while others might not make the connection between the change in typesetting and the change in Wikki’s height.
On the plus side, Spiegelman does a fine job of making Earth science an integral part of the story. The script features call-outs with information about the various “pets” that Zig and Wikki try to capture: a dragonfly, a frog, a raccoon, a common housefly. From an adult perspective, these facts may seem arbitrary, but from a kid’s, they add a whole new level of interest to the text; what five-year-old wouldn’t find it fascinating that some frogs shed and eat their skin, or that flies have the ability to sense whether food has spoiled?
The science content makes Zig and Wikki a good choice for classroom use, perhaps for a lesson on pond ecology. (All of the Earth scenes take place near a pond where the boys crash.) It also makes it a great bedtime read for budding naturalists, especially for those who gravitate towards insects, reptiles, and amphibians. The vocabulary and syntax are a little more complex than that found in other Toon Book readers, and are best suited for students in grades one, two, and three.
The title suggests that this is the first of several books about Zig and Wikki. I hope the series continues, as I think the basic concept — using a fun, fast-paced story as a Trojan Horse for scientific information — is terrific, and deserves a second chance to find its groove.
Review copy provided by the publisher.