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Reviewed by Asher Syed for Readers' Favorite
Dusty's Big Oops!, written by Tammy Fortune and illustrated by Pieter Els and Nika Pieterse, is a children's picture book that revolves around the general theme of social anxiety, particularly as it applies to the fear of making a mistake. The book begins with a dog named Dusty telling us that his young fur-parent named Danny is bringing Dusty to school that day. It's Pet Day and while Dusty expresses his initial excitement, and the pair head off, Dusty begins to feel anxious. On arrival, there are a number of other pets that Danny's classmates have brought in, with a cat, a parrot, a fish, and even a snake in attendance. As Danny tells the class about how amazing Dusty is, Dusty's happiness is displayed through his usual tail wagging, but the series of events that follow place Dusty squarely into his worst public nightmare.
As a parent with a child who suffers from social anxiety, I was immediately drawn to Dusty's Big Oops! Tammy Fortune details the range of emotions that many children might feel when they are placed in the spotlight. Fortune validates the feeling, does not downplay it or give the sense that it is inherently wrong, and thankfully does not give readers the impression of a simple fix. Mistakes happen and children do get embarrassed, but Fortune tells us by way of Dusty that they can be fixed, and an apology goes a long way in making things right. The illustrations by Pieter Els and Nika Pieterse are really well done, breathing life into the scenes described with a palette of bold primary colors and a nice realism in the depiction of people and pets that will allow readers to connect in a way that they may not have done otherwise. There is also diversity within the classroom which is refreshing, so more children will likely see themselves reflected in the story. Overall, this is a good little book with an important message, and it was enthusiastically received by my youngest reader.