A stately recap drawing on current physics and astronomy and appropriately cognizant of their limitations.

THE BIG BANG BOOK

An astrophysicist goes back to our cosmic origins: “Once upon a time, / we don’t know.”

“Maybe it was dark. / Maybe there was nothing.” Carefully distinguishing verifiable fact from informed speculation, Stahl ushers readers past the first second of the Big Bang through the transformation of plasma to matter, then the appearance of swirling galaxies and their stars and planets, and finally to a planet that’s “just right” for “you. / And everyone else.” In her suitably dramatic illustrations, Allen-Fletcher modulates from flat black pages to shimmering blasts of light and fiery stellar nurseries that give way to a misty blue Earth, with an indistinct figure in a dim bedroom scene hung with glow-in-the-dark stars—and, accompanying the author’s suggestion that there may be more than one planet that’s “just right,” a pointy eared silhouette likewise looking up into a starlit sky. Unlike James Carter’s similarly wonder-infused Once Upon a Star, illustrated by Mar Hernández (2018), the dizzying notion that the Big Bang marked the beginnings of time and space themselves as well as matter goes unremarked here…but in an expansive afterword the author urges readers to ask big questions like “What am I?” and “Where am I?” because they “cut to the heart of how much we understand about the universe.”

A stately recap drawing on current physics and astronomy and appropriately cognizant of their limitations. (Informational picture book. 6-10)

Pub Date: April 7, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-939547-64-4

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Creston

Review Posted Online: Dec. 8, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2020

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An immersive dunk into a vast subject—and on course for shorter attention spans.

EVERYTHING AWESOME ABOUT SHARKS AND OTHER UNDERWATER CREATURES!

In the wake of Everything Awesome About Dinosaurs and Other Prehistoric Beasts! (2019), Lowery spins out likewise frothy arrays of facts and observations about sharks, whales, giant squid, and smaller but no less extreme (or at least extremely interesting) sea life.

He provides plenty of value-added features, from overviews of oceanic zones and environments to jokes, drawing instructions, and portrait galleries suitable for copying or review. While not one to pass up any opportunity to, for instance, characterize ambergris as “whale vomit perfume” or the clownfish’s protective coating as “snot armor,” he also systematically introduces members of each of the eight orders of sharks, devotes most of a page to the shark’s electroreceptive ampullae of Lorenzini, and even sheds light on the unobvious differences between jellyfish and the Portuguese man-of-war or the reason why the blue octopus is said to have “arms” rather than “tentacles.” He also argues persuasively that sharks have gotten a bad rap (claiming that more people are killed each year by…vending machines) and closes with pleas to be concerned about plastic waste, to get involved in conservation efforts, and (cannily) to get out and explore our planet because (quoting Jacques-Yves Cousteau) “People protect what they love.” Human figures, some with brown skin, pop up occasionally to comment in the saturated color illustrations. (This book was reviewed digitally with 10-by-17-inch double-page spreads viewed at 45% of actual size.)

An immersive dunk into a vast subject—and on course for shorter attention spans. (bibliography, list of organizations) (Nonfiction. 7-10)

Pub Date: Oct. 6, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-338-35973-2

Page Count: 128

Publisher: Orchard/Scholastic

Review Posted Online: June 30, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 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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