A geo-hodgepodge, wearisome despite its planetary scope and a resolutely international outlook.

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UNDER EARTH, UNDER WATER

On oversized pages, top-to-bottom journeys through first our planet and then its oceans.

As itineraries go, neither outing is particularly well-organized. The land portion begins with clusters of nematodes and suchlike small subsurface dwellers—all accompanied by labels and, often, a descriptive comment—and goes on to teeming galleries of other diggers, including row after row of root vegetables. A series of human-built works in cross section follows, and then the book digs past plate tectonics to plunge into the mantle and so down to the planet’s core. In a switch that makes more poetic than physical sense, the orientation then reverses, so that turning the page begins a journey from the bottom of the Marianas Trench on up. That progress isn’t any steadier, as artificially dense crowds of exotic deep-sea fish give way to oil rigs and undersea vessels of diverse design, then finally select reef and freshwater-lake denizens. The unwieldy volume comes with two title pages (and covers), so voyagers can start from either end. Either way, though, the going takes on a monotonous quality, as the hundreds of creatures and structures are drawn in the same flat, cartoon style (rarely to scale) and so shoveled-in among balloons of commentary that many spreads look overstuffed. The skin tones of human figures vary from white to light brown.

A geo-hodgepodge, wearisome despite its planetary scope and a resolutely international outlook. (Informational picture book. 9-12)

Pub Date: Oct. 11, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-78370-364-7

Page Count: 112

Publisher: Big Picture/Candlewick

Review Posted Online: July 20, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2016

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This middle-grade story of family, friendship and school has all the right elements, but it lacks an ignition spark.

RUBY GOLDBERG'S BRIGHT IDEA

A Rube Goldberg namesake discovers there’s more to life than inventions.

Fifth-grader Ruby Goldberg spends more time thinking about elaborate contraptions than about school or the people around her. Determined to win the gold medal that has eluded her in earlier science fairs, she focuses all her attention on the construction of her entry, ignoring her patient best friend’s needs and her grieving grandfather’s feelings. But there’s hope that, like the cartoonist and inventor she was named for, she can become a more well-rounded person. At her father’s suggestion, she collaborates with classmate Dominic, a former rival. Working together leads to friendship, and their intricate system for the delivery of a newspaper and slippers is, indeed, an engineering marvel—though she comes to understand it will never replace her grandfather’s dog. Unfortunately, it doesn’t quite all come together, despite Ruby’s appropriately self-centered and sometimes-funny narration. By her own account, Ruby has been supercompetitive for years; her sudden behavior changes are therefore not quite credible. Ruby’s inventive mind is interesting, though the actual diagrammed workings of her Tomato-Matic 2000 are sadly opaque (thank goodness the narrative describes it).

This middle-grade story of family, friendship and school has all the right elements, but it lacks an ignition spark. (Fiction. 9-12)

Pub Date: April 8, 2014

ISBN: 978-1-4424-8027-8

Page Count: 144

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: Jan. 4, 2014

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A rare chance to shine for the former ninth planet.

PLUTO'S SECRET

AN ICY WORLD'S TALE OF DISCOVERY

Is it a planet? A dwarf planet? What’s up with that mysterious body that, even in our best telescopes, floats tantalizingly at the edge of visibility?

Pairing a lighthearted narrative in a hand-lettered–style typeface with informally drawn cartoon illustrations, this lively tale of astronomical revelations begins with the search for “Planet X.” It then sweeps past Pluto’s first sighting by Clyde Tombaugh and its naming by 11-year-old Venetia Burney to the later discovery of more icy worlds—both in our solar system’s Kuiper belt and orbiting other stars. Meanwhile, sailing along with a smug expression, the mottled orange planetoid is “busy dancing with its moons. / Cha-cha / Cha-cha-cha” and Kuiper buddies as it waits for Earth’s astronomers to realize at last that it’s different from the other planets (“BINGO!”) and needs a new classification. Ceres inexplicably rates no entry in the gallery of dwarf planets, and the closing glossary isn’t exactly stellar (“World: Any object in space”), but fans of Basher’s postmodern science surveys will feel right at home with the buoyant mix of personification and hard fact.

A rare chance to shine for the former ninth planet. (photos and additional detail, “Note from the Museum,” suggested reading, bibliography, index) (Nonfiction. 9-11)

Pub Date: March 12, 2013

ISBN: 978-1-4197-0423-9

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Abrams

Review Posted Online: Dec. 26, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2013

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