Scanty for a stand-alone guide but definitely a vocabulary enricher.


A playful introduction to bacteria, viruses, fungi, algae, archaea, and protozoa.

Readers are going to need a basic grounding in cytology from the start, as Gallagher drops such terms as “nucleus” and “organelles” into the discourse without defining them and rushes past plasmids without explaining what they are or do. Likewise, though she fits out all of the jelly-bean–like cells and microbes in her lighthearted illustrations with expressive faces—not to mention occasional limbs, fashion accessories, and hair—she rarely includes recognizable biological components. She’s not particularly systematic either, as she mentions four major components of the human immune system but goes on to describe only two. More usefully, along with frequent mentions of how ubiquitous microbes are, her main focus seems to be laying out microbial types and subtypes, from the five shape-related groups of bacteria to the even more ancient archaea (Crenarchaeota, Euryarchaeota, and Korarchaeota), and describing their individual distinctions and how they reproduce. Polysyllabic as some of this content is, the breezy presentation should impart to general students, as well as budding microbiologists, a nodding acquaintance with our single-celled neighbors and residents.

Scanty for a stand-alone guide but definitely a vocabulary enricher. (glossary) (Nonfiction. 8-10)

Pub Date: Dec. 1, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-63411-009-9

Page Count: 64

Publisher: Thunderstone Books

Review Posted Online: Aug. 27, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2017

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An unsuccessful foray into Persian history and legend.



An illustrated profile of an ancient queen.

Seven hundred years ago, a 14-year-old girl named Goharshad married the powerful ruler Shah Rukh and became a queen. After moving to Herat, the stunning seat of her new husband’s empire, Goharshad dreamed of transforming her kingdom into something even more beautiful than it already was. For the rest of her reign, Goharshad funded and oversaw artistic projects ranging from the creation of a mosque to the construction of a library and a college intended to include women and girls. Goharshad persisted despite doubts about her decisions, creating a legacy that lasted until war and time destroyed her most impressive creations. This text-heavy book walks an uncertain line between fiction and nonfiction: Many passages that are presented as facts feel rooted in speculation, such as the musings of an “old man” who gathers the jeweled tiles that are all that remains of a building the queen constructed in Herat. Since the author provides no historical sources, it is hard to say what genre this is meant to be. The unnecessarily flowery language—which is, equally unnecessarily, printed in a stylized typeface—and the highly embellished illustrations are troubling and exoticizing. Furthermore, the tragic tone of the final pages renders this story one of loss, leaving readers with a deficit perspective of a troubled region with a rich and vibrant past. A classroom guide on the publisher's website provides extension activities but no further documentation for the story itself.

An unsuccessful foray into Persian history and legend. (Picture book. 8-10)

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-949528-97-8

Page Count: 44

Publisher: Yali Books

Review Posted Online: June 23, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2019

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Like it or not, size matters, and Henn shows just how important size can be across 17 animal species found around the world.

The organization is scattershot, jumping from animal to animal, but readers and listeners may not mind this as they’re learning a bit about each creature discussed. Nearly every text block ends with an open-ended question or challenge: Can you flap your arms faster than a bee hummingbird’s 80 times per second? Whose tongue is longer, yours or a giraffe’s? Large spreads—each page is 12 inches square—allow this book to be easily seen from the back of the room. Though the book will easily create choruses of “awwww”s, it may also generate a few “uuuummmm”s, as the facts are brief. Readers learn, for instance, that the male rainbow lizard is normally brown but transforms into rainbow hues “to impress female lizards,” but they don’t learn how this happens. Backmatter consists of a relative-size chart of many (not all) of the animals discussed. All measurements are in English units only even though the metric system is the international standard. Henn’s illustrations, which appear to be digitally created, are bright, bold, and welcoming. Readers are greeted by an arrestingly large panda face and bamboo endpapers, but the only information about pandas is in the backmatter. Panda enthusiasts (and those who judge a book by its cover) will be greatly disappointed.

A mixed bag. (Informational picture book. 8-10)

Pub Date: Dec. 1, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-61067-731-8

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Kane Miller

Review Posted Online: Sept. 17, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2018

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