An appealingly if occasionally problematically illustrated browser that may pose more questions than it answers.

STRANGE TREES

AND THE STORIES BEHIND THEM

Sixteen uncommon trees from around the world describe themselves, in first, er, person, in this charmingly illustrated but odd French import.

Each woody marvel is described in a separate two-page, colorfully bordered spread, with facts given on the verso and a dreamy, folk-style painting opposite. Included are such strange botanicals as the “ghost tree,” the “bullhorn tree,” and the “dynamite tree.” Problems branch out: the trees don’t say if their nicknames are common usage—or if they’re the author’s own arch inventions. The “self-portraits” provide some useful information, including scientific and/or other common names and occasional thumbnail sketches of fruits and seeds, though some facts may be over the target audience’s heads. However, the “autobiographies” are also often marred by silly, self-conscious hipness. The trees’ places of origin are only seldom named within the descriptions, and maps of continents on the endpapers are only very general guides. The sprightly paintings sometimes reflect stereotypes: a male Native American standing next to a sequoia carries a tomahawk and wears a Plains Indian feathered headdress, for instance. Furthermore, while noteworthy, some trees aren’t so strange or little-known at all, despite exotic monikers: the “chocolate tree” is the cocoa tree, the “forty-coin tree” is the gingko biloba, and the “giant sequoia” is the renowned U.S. treasure. There is no glossary.

An appealingly if occasionally problematically illustrated browser that may pose more questions than it answers. (Informational picture book. 6-9)

Pub Date: April 5, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-61689-459-7

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Princeton Architectural Press

Review Posted Online: Feb. 2, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2016

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

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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“It’s time to head back home,” the narrator concludes. “You’ve touched the Earth in so many ways.” Who knew it would be so...

TOUCH THE EARTH

From the Julian Lennon White Feather Flier Adventure series , Vol. 1

A pro bono Twinkie of a book invites readers to fly off in a magic plane to bring clean water to our planet’s oceans, deserts, and brown children.

Following a confusingly phrased suggestion beneath a soft-focus world map to “touch the Earth. Now touch where you live,” a shake of the volume transforms it into a plane with eyes and feathered wings that flies with the press of a flat, gray “button” painted onto the page. Pressing like buttons along the journey releases a gush of fresh water from the ground—and later, illogically, provides a filtration device that changes water “from yucky to clean”—for thirsty groups of smiling, brown-skinned people. At other stops, a tap on the button will “help irrigate the desert,” and touching floating bottles and other debris in the ocean supposedly makes it all disappear so the fish can return. The 20 children Coh places on a globe toward the end are varied of skin tone, but three of the four young saviors she plants in the flier’s cockpit as audience stand-ins are white. The closing poem isn’t so openly parochial, though it seldom rises above vague feel-good sentiments: “Love the Earth, the moon and sun. / All the children can be one.”

“It’s time to head back home,” the narrator concludes. “You’ve touched the Earth in so many ways.” Who knew it would be so easy to clean the place up and give everyone a drink? (Picture book. 6-8)

Pub Date: April 11, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-5107-2083-1

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Sky Pony Press

Review Posted Online: Feb. 4, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2017

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