When an Inquisitive Preschooler Saves the World

h1 December 10th, 2019 by jules


Power-hungry, tyrannical Doctor X-Ray, complete with an X-ray blaster and an indestructible battle suit, descends upon a busy shopping mall. He’s a mwahaha-villain of the dastardliest sort. Everyone flees in terror, except one little girl, who asks …


And repeatedly asks “why?” As young children are wont to do.

This is the very funny Why? (Chronicle, October 2019), written by Adam Rex and illustrated by Claire Keane.

Since the mall has been cleared, it’s just Doctor X-Ray and his new inquisitive sidekick. “Why?” is all she asks. And as our villain responds, we get more and more information about his evil plans, as well as his motives, via Keane’s speech-balloon dialogue. Why is he indestructible? A meteor landed on his carport last year. Why? It “chose to bestow … unimaginable power” on his battle suit. Why? Because it is his “DESTINY TO RULE THE WORLD!” Why? The world has been unfair to him. On he goes until we learn that, as a child, Doctor X-Ray was actually enamored with knitting and tried to found a yarn store, which failed. He disappointed his father, who wanted him to be a doctor. He deserves what he wants after such a hard life, right? The girl listens (between her “why?”s), looking up at him with big, inquisitive eyes, as they traverse the mall. As Doctor X-Ray engages deeper and deeper into this one-sided, self-psychoanalytical monologue, he reveals a troubled inner child who just wanted (and needed) acceptance.

Keane’s energetic, relaxed-lined illustrations are a visual treat. (Side note: This book makes me really want to see her try her hand at comics.) The faces and body language here are particularly expressive; Keane knows how to amp up the drama with things like Doctor X-Ray’s evil stances and maniacal laughter. And there’s even some slapstick humor, such as when Doctor X-Ray’s behavior devolves into a full-blown tantrum next to the escalators.

Then, screams and wails out of his system, he realizes that “everyone’s battling something. Everyone wants to win.” It’s an epiphany. He even comes to realize he could take over the world, but … why? The story wraps up with a rimshot of a joke, and the final endpapers reveal a happy surprise.

So fun, this spirited, hyperbolic take on mad scientist humor. Here are some spreads from the book. …


“Go ahead and RUN, puny fools!
No one can withstand the power of DOCTOR X-RAY!”

(Click to enlarge spread)



(Click second image to enlarge and see spread in its entirety)


“I believe it CHOSE ME! …”
(Click to enlarge spread)


“Because his dad was a doctor. And his dad’s dad was a doctor.
That’s how it is in my family.”

(Click to enlarge spread)


* * * * * * *

WHY? Text copyright © 2019 by Adam Rex. Illustrations copyright © 2019 by Claire Keane and reproduced by permission of the publisher, Chronicle Books, San Francisco.

One comment to “When an Inquisitive Preschooler Saves the World”

  1. This book is brilliant and PERfect for adults! 😀

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