Natural history from decidedly offbeat angles.

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1,001 CREATURES

Wielding crayons and broad, inked brushes, a Finnish artist offers freestyle images of 26 wild animals of land and sea.

The free-verse poetic flights (or Jeremiah’s translations) that Järvinen pairs to each of Merz’s animal portraits are technically accurate but sound fanciful: “Here comes the multi-purpose marvel of the jungle, / Elephant and TRUNK!” And: “The bear combs through the ant hill with its big paws / and pops its occupants into his mouth.” Sharing a like disregard for the conventional approach, the art, inspired (as the artist explains) by dim childhood memories rather than actual models, is largely composed of semi-abstract jumbles of geometric shapes and shadowy blobs, disconnected or oddly jointed limbs rendered with a few quick strokes, and scribbles or washes of thin primary hues. The creatures are largely unrecognizable without the printed cues adjacent, but the overall effect is one of lively activity, with occasional surprises, such as a clump of sinuous, scary-looking jellyfish on a vivid blue background—think H.P. Lovecraft à la Henri Matisse—and a trio of polar bears, two of which are pitch black (as polar bears are, beneath their fur), to give viewers pause. Leading questions or suggestions at each poem’s end (“Have you tried walking like a camel?”) will provoke further reactions from fledgling animal lovers. (This book was reviewed digitally with 9.8-by-24-inch double-page spreads viewed at 52% of actual size.)

Natural history from decidedly offbeat angles. (Picture book/poetry. 6-8)

Pub Date: Sept. 29, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-63206-268-0

Page Count: 64

Publisher: Yonder

Review Posted Online: June 3, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2020

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A good overview of this complex, essential organ, with an energetic seasoning of silliness.

THE BRAIN IS KIND OF A BIG DEAL

An introduction to the lead guitar and vocalist for the Brainiacs—the human brain.

The brain (familiar to readers of Seluk’s “The Awkward Yeti” webcomic, which spun off the adult title Heart and Brain, 2015) looks like a dodgeball with arms and legs—pinkish, sturdy, and roundish, with a pair of square-framed spectacles bestowing an air of importance and hipness. Other organs of the body—tongue, lungs, stomach, muscle, and heart—are featured as members of the brain’s rock band (the verso of the dust jacket is a poster of the band). Seluk’s breezy, conversational prose and brightly colored, boldly outlined cartoon illustrations deliver basic information. The brain’s role in keeping the heart beating and other automatic functions, directing body movements, interpreting sights and sounds, remembering smells and tastes, and regulating sleep and hunger are all explained, prose augmented by dialogue balloons and information sidebars. Seluk points out, importantly, that feelings originate in the brain: “You can control how you react…but your feelings happen no matter what.” The parodied album covers on the front endpapers (including the Beatles, Pink Floyd, Green Day, Run DMC, Queen, Nirvana) will amuse parents—or at least grandparents—and the rear endpapers serve up band members’ clever social media and texting screenshots. Backmatter includes a glossary and further brain trivia but no resources or bibliography.

A good overview of this complex, essential organ, with an energetic seasoning of silliness. (Informational picture book. 6-8)

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-338-16700-9

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Orchard/Scholastic

Review Posted Online: June 23, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2019

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Phoned-in illustrations keep this quick overview firmly planted on the launch pad.

THE BIG BEYOND

THE STORY OF SPACE TRAVEL

A capsule history of space exploration, from early stargazing to probes roaming the surface of Mars.

In loosely rhymed couplets Carter’s high-speed account zooms past the inventions of constellations, telescopes, and flying machines to the launches of Sputnik I, the “Saturn Five” (spelled out, probably, to facilitate the rhyme) that put men on the moon, and later probes. He caps it all with an enticing suggestion: “We’ll need an astronaut (or two)— / so what do you think? Could it be YOU?” Cushley lines up a notably diverse array of prospective young space travelers for this finish, but anachronistic earlier views of a dark-skinned astronaut floating in orbit opposite poetic references to the dogs, cats, and other animals sent into space in the 1950s and a model of the space shuttle on a shelf next to a line of viewers watching the televised moon landing in 1969 show no great regard for verisimilitude. Also, his full-page opening picture of the Challenger, its ports painted to look like a smiley face, just moments before it blew up is a decidedly odd choice to illustrate the poem’s opening countdown. As with his cosmological lyric Once upon a Star (2018, illustrated by Mar Hernández), the poet closes with a page of further facts arranged as an acrostic.

Phoned-in illustrations keep this quick overview firmly planted on the launch pad. (Informational picture book. 6-8)

Pub Date: April 1, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-68010-147-8

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Tiger Tales

Review Posted Online: Jan. 15, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2019

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