Sunday, January 10, 2016

Book Review: Commander Toad and the Big Black Hole by Jane Yolen

Stars: 4 out of 5
Pros: More puns in an easy reader
Cons: A little slow to get story started
The Bottom Line:
A black hole is space
Provides new danger for crew
And new jokes for us

Another Commander Toad Adventure, Complete with Bad Singing and Great Puns

While scientists have an explanation for black holes, we get another one in Commander Toad and the Big Black Hole.  It’s a picture book, so it’s probably not scientifically accurate, but it sure is fun.

Commander Toad and the crew of the Star Warts are passing through a section of space when they notice a big black hole in the distance.  Since they grew up living in holes, they figured that something must live in this black hole.  Talks turns to their early life, and Commander Toad proves that toads can’t sing.

But then the ship gets stuck on something strange.  Something long and pink and sticky.  No, it isn’t bubble gum.  Can the crew get the ship unstuck before they become lunch?

I will grant you that these picture books aren’t strong on plot, but this one seems a bit slow to get going.  Yes, ultimately, this sets up how Commander Toad and his crew get their ship back, but I was ready for the black hole to provide a problem before it did.

This is the first book in the series to have a moral, and it’s one that applies to all kids – human or toad.  Don’t sing with your mouth full!

All the books in this series are filled with puns, and this one is no exception.  Just look at the version of “Home on the Range” that Commander Toad sings as a great example.  I always enjoy this aspect of the books.

The illustrations by Bruce Degen add to the charm of the story as well.  Look at them carefully as a few of them contains jokes in their own right.  They complement the text and are such fun.

You’ll find that the book works as an easy reader.  In fact, the character names might be the most difficult thing for young readers to decipher.  With a little help from adults, they should be able to read this adventure all by themselves.

And my issue with the slow part is probably me just looking at this as an adult.  Kids will be entertained the entire way through Commander Toad and the Big Black Hole, and adults will enjoy the puns and jokes as well.


  1. I think my son would really enjoy this one. He likes the absurdity of animals doing people things so Space Toads would absolutely crack him up. Have you read any Geronimo Stilton? That's our current bedtime read and I think I'm enjoying it just as much as he is.

    1. I haven't heard of those books before, but I'm off to check them out right now. Thanks for the recommendation.

  2. Sounds like a great story for kids. I like the puns involved.