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From the Epic Fails series , Vol. 1

It may not be epic, but this is certainly one launch that fails to get off the ground.

If at first you don’t succeed, try and try and try and try.

In a series launch bent on showing how failure may be instructive, Thompson and Slader turn the story of the Wright Brothers into an amusing, bite-sized history lesson. History’s early flight fiascos and successes are recounted, culminating in Orville and Wilbur Wright’s. Over the years they would experiment, fail, learn from their mistakes, tinker, fail, and tenaciously pursue their dreams until they succeeded. Alas, troubles dog this well-intentioned series opener. An early statement that “It would seem that before man would learn to fly, he’d have to learn how to fall” prefaces a book that ignores the contributions (and failures) of such early women aeronauts as Sophie Blanchard. In a section on ballooning, a statement that the novel Around the World in Eighty Days was “about circling the globe in a hot air balloon” is incorrect (no ballooning occurs in that book). Attempts to appeal to child readers today yield awkward sentences that describe the brothers as “steampunk hipsters at Comic-Con” wrestling with the controls of the plane “like trying to play a multiplayer computer game with a really bad Internet connection.” Artist Foley renders the text accessible with his lively pen-and-ink drawings, but they are too little, too late.

It may not be epic, but this is certainly one launch that fails to get off the ground. (Nonfiction. 8-10)

Pub Date: July 10, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-250-15055-4

Page Count: 128

Publisher: Flash Point/Roaring Brook

Review Posted Online: May 13, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2018

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1001 BEES

Friends of these pollinators will be best served elsewhere.

This book is buzzing with trivia.

Follow a swarm of bees as they leave a beekeeper’s apiary in search of a new home. As the scout bees traverse the fields, readers are provided with a potpourri of facts and statements about bees. The information is scattered—much like the scout bees—and as a result, both the nominal plot and informational content are tissue-thin. There are some interesting facts throughout the book, but many pieces of trivia are too, well trivial, to prove useful. For example, as the bees travel, readers learn that “onion flowers are round and fluffy” and “fennel is a plant that is used in cooking.” Other facts are oversimplified and as a result are not accurate. For example, monofloral honey is defined as “made by bees who visit just one kind of flower” with no acknowledgment of the fact that bees may range widely, and swarm activity is described as a springtime event, when it can also occur in summer and early fall. The information in the book, such as species identification and measurement units, is directed toward British readers. The flat, thin-lined artwork does little to enhance the story, but an “I spy” game challenging readers to find a specific bee throughout is amusing.

Friends of these pollinators will be best served elsewhere. (Informational picture book. 8-10)

Pub Date: May 18, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-500-65265-7

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Thames & Hudson

Review Posted Online: April 13, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2021

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A stimulating outing to the furthest reaches of our knowledge, certain to inspire deep thoughts.

From a Caldecott and Sibert honoree, an invitation to take a mind-expanding journey from the surface of our planet to the furthest reaches of the observable cosmos.

Though Chin’s assumption that we are even capable of understanding the scope of the universe is quixotic at best, he does effectively lead viewers on a journey that captures a sense of its scale. Following the model of Kees Boeke’s classic Cosmic View: The Universe in Forty Jumps (1957), he starts with four 8-year-old sky watchers of average height (and different racial presentations). They peer into a telescope and then are comically startled by the sudden arrival of an ostrich that is twice as tall…and then a giraffe that is over twice as tall as that…and going onward and upward, with ellipses at each page turn connecting the stages, past our atmosphere and solar system to the cosmic web of galactic superclusters. As he goes, precisely drawn earthly figures and features in the expansive illustrations give way to ever smaller celestial bodies and finally to glimmering swirls of distant lights against gulfs of deep black before ultimately returning to his starting place. A closing recap adds smaller images and additional details. Accompanying the spare narrative, valuable side notes supply specific lengths or distances and define their units of measure, accurately explain astronomical phenomena, and close with the provocative observation that “the observable universe is centered on us, but we are not in the center of the entire universe.”

A stimulating outing to the furthest reaches of our knowledge, certain to inspire deep thoughts. (afterword, websites, further reading) (Informational picture book. 8-10)

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-8234-4623-0

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Neal Porter/Holiday House

Review Posted Online: April 11, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2020

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