Dad, Don’t Miss It! / City Under the City

Here are two recent additions to Astra Young Readers list – thanks to GMC Distribution for sending them for review.

Dad, Don’t Miss It!
Qiaoqiao Li

In her debut picture book Qiaoqiao Li starts with a situation that will be familiar to many young children: a parent – father in this instance – immersed in a computer screen. This he does even when he and his son are supposed to be sharing some quality time going on an adventure. They take a bus to their forest destination but both en route and when they arrive, Dad has his computer screen on. So distracted is he that he fails to see the red fairy and its friends, a white deer and a stone elf, the tree monsters and flower troll, all of which play with his child. Eager to introduce them to his dad the boy waits patiently in the first instance but gradually becomes more frustrated and eventually loses patience, yelling ‘Dad!’

Not only has Dad been missing the possibilities of play, he’s completely unaware of the transformation he’s been undergoing all the while until a response finally comes.This sends everyone other than Dad rolling down the hill and right into the lake.

Can this parent now forget his computer and save the day?

With otherworldly digital illustrations, this magical tale serves as a timely reminder that we should all turn off our screens, leave the virtual world behind for a while and enjoy some real life adventures.

City Under The City
Dan Yaccarino

Residing in a dystopian city under constant surveillance from the Eyes are Bix and her family. Said Eyes have absolute control over the daily lives of everyone.

Wanting autonomy, young Bix is not understood by her family, plays with nobody and frequently feels completely alone, She and her schoolmates only read on handheld screens and under the constant supervision of the Eyes, never choose their reading matter. However ‘The Eyes don’t just help. They also watch.’ But why and what, Bix wants to know. All this we learn from Dan Yaccarino’s comic panels and brief accompanying text.

One day Bix hears something new – a squeaking sound and liking what she sees, follows the little creature, a friendly rat deep down underground to the ruins of a city that at first sight seems similar to, but is in fact altogether different, from that in which she lives. For there in this place she is led to its abandoned library full of books, 

a museum, a restaurant and a music hall—what’s left of life before the Eyes took over. Here Bix and her new friend can be truly self-directing but what has happened to all the people?

Having spent many days down below and becoming aware of the possibilities of a different way of life, Bix feels the call of home and family. Back she goes up and up but although her family are overjoyed to see her; not so the Eyes, one of which snatches her sister. Little by little, Bix reveals what she’s discovered to her fellow citizens and eventually, bringing them all together, she leads an uprising, rescues Taff and reunites her entire family who are ‘really together for the first time.’

A scary look at a possible world ruled by AI and a surveillance culture for screen obsessed youngsters.

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