In spite of the book’s flaws, dragons are very appealing, and tales for young audiences that model the scientific method are...

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DRAGONS AND MARSHMALLOWS

From the Zoey and Sassafras series , Vol. 1

Zoey discovers that she can see magical creatures that might need her help.

That’s a good thing because her mother has been caring for the various beasts since childhood, but now she’s leaving on a business trip so the work will fall to Zoey. Most people (like Zoey’s father) can’t see the magical creatures, so Zoey, who appears in illustrations to be black, will have to experiment with their care by problem-solving using the scientific method to determine appropriate treatment and feeding. When a tiny, sick dragon shows up on her doorstep, she runs an experiment and determines that marshmallows appear to be the proper food. Unfortunately, she hadn’t done enough research beforehand to understand that although dragons might like marshmallows, they might not be the best food for a sick, fire-breathing baby. Although the incorporation of important STEM behaviors is a plus, the exposition is mildly clunky, with little character development and stilted dialogue. Many pages are dense with large-print text, related in Zoey’s not especially childlike voice. However, the inclusion in each chapter of a couple of attractive black-and-white illustrations of round-faced people and Zoey’s mischievous cat helps break up the narrative.

In spite of the book’s flaws, dragons are very appealing, and tales for young audiences that model the scientific method are nice to see. (Fantasy. 6-9)

Pub Date: March 14, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-943147-08-3

Page Count: 96

Publisher: The Innovation Press

Review Posted Online: Dec. 19, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2017

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A floral fantasia for casual browsers as well as budding botanists.

THE BIG BOOK OF BLOOMS

Spirited illustrations brighten a large-format introduction to flowers and their pollinators.

Showing a less Eurocentric outlook than in his Big Book of Birds (2019), Zommer employs agile brushwork and a fondness for graceful lines and bright colors to bring to life bustling bouquets from a range of habitats, from rainforest to desert. Often switching from horizontal to vertical orientations, the topical spreads progress from overviews of major floral families and broad looks at plant anatomy and reproduction to close-ups of select flora—roses and tulips to Venus flytraps and stinking flowers. The book then closes with a shoutout to the conservators and other workers at Kew Gardens (this is a British import) and quick suggestions for young balcony or windowsill gardeners. In most of the low-angled scenes, fancifully drawn avian or insect pollinators with human eyes hover around all the large, luscious blooms, as do one- or two-sentence comments that generally add cogent observations or insights: “All parts of the deadly nightshade plant contain poison. It has been used to poison famous emperors, kings and warriors throughout history.” (Confusingly for the audience, the accurate but limited assertion that bees “often visit blue or purple flowers” appears to be contradicted by an adjacent view of several zeroing in on a yellow toadflax.) Human figures, or, in one scene, hands, are depicted in a variety of sizes, shapes, and skin colors.

A floral fantasia for casual browsers as well as budding botanists. (glossary, index) (Informational picture book. 7-9)

Pub Date: May 5, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-500-65199-5

Page Count: 64

Publisher: Thames & Hudson

Review Posted Online: March 25, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2020

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Adventure, humor, and smart, likable characters make for a winning chapter book.

ADA TWIST AND THE PERILOUS PANTS

From the Questioneers series , Vol. 2

Ada Twist’s incessant stream of questions leads to answers that help solve a neighborhood crisis.

Ada conducts experiments at home to answer questions such as, why does Mom’s coffee smell stronger than Dad’s coffee? Each answer leads to another question, another hypothesis, and another experiment, which is how she goes from collecting data on backyard birds for a citizen-science project to helping Rosie Revere figure out how to get her uncle Ned down from the sky, where his helium-filled “perilous pants” are keeping him afloat. The Questioneers—Rosie the engineer, Iggy Peck the architect, and Ada the scientist—work together, asking questions like scientists. Armed with knowledge (of molecules and air pressure, force and temperature) but more importantly, with curiosity, Ada works out a solution. Ada is a recognizable, three-dimensional girl in this delightfully silly chapter book: tirelessly curious and determined yet easily excited and still learning to express herself. If science concepts aren’t completely clear in this romp, relationships and emotions certainly are. In playful full- and half-page illustrations that break up the text, Ada is black with Afro-textured hair; Rosie and Iggy are white. A closing section on citizen science may inspire readers to get involved in science too; on the other hand, the “Ode to a Gas!” may just puzzle them. Other backmatter topics include the importance of bird study and the threat palm-oil use poses to rainforests.

Adventure, humor, and smart, likable characters make for a winning chapter book. (Fiction. 6-9)

Pub Date: April 16, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-4197-3422-9

Page Count: 144

Publisher: Amulet/Abrams

Review Posted Online: Jan. 28, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2019

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