A lively, fact-filled work about sparkling ocean creatures and their crucial roles.



A scuba-diving grandpa introduces readers to the world of microscopic life in the sea in this children’s science book.

The world’s oceans and freshwater environments teem with beneficial microscopic organisms called diatoms. In Franco-Feeney’s well-conceived work, sure to spark a sense of discovery, grade school–age readers are introduced to these creatures and to the essential roles they play in the aquatic food chain, medicine, biomedical research, industry, and the very health of the planet. In the first half of the book, pleasantly illustrated by the author, Bart and his sister, Amy, go scuba diving with their grandfather Saba. He promises to show them the “jewels of the sea”—not a pirate’s treasure, as they hope at first, but a rainbow of diatoms so tiny they can be seen only through a microscope or the special “micro-goggles” Saba has invented. As the siblings exclaim over the glasslike diatoms, Saba’s facts about the organisms include how they provide the world with “almost a quarter of all the oxygen we breathe” through their process of photosynthesis. How the trio is able to speak underwater isn’t explained, but Saba’s “oxygen-gathering machine” allows for a visit to the ocean floor, where dead diatoms, forming a substance called diatomaceous earth, contribute to life, too. (Young readers’ jaws may drop when they learn that this substance, found in such prosaic products as cat litter and toothpaste, was used centuries ago in building the pyramids.) The more substantial second half of the book, intended for adults to experience with children, expands on this information in captivating detail. Photographs add visual appeal to a clear presentation of astonishing diatom facts that underscores the contributions of those credited with the story’s inspiration: research scientist E. Ray Pariser, registered nurse Sandra R. Cramer, and scientist Anne Bartels Whitson. The real-life science adventure ends with a comprehensive glossary of words and terms, a bibliography, source material conveniently identified by where it is referenced in the book, and a note about the inclusion of otherworldly appearing diatom images shot by award-winning nature photographer Murawski.

A lively, fact-filled work about sparkling ocean creatures and their crucial roles.

Pub Date: April 22, 2022

ISBN: 978-0-9726487-0-7

Page Count: 44

Publisher: Puddle Jump Press

Review Posted Online: April 16, 2021

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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...


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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Hurray for the underdog.


Heart (-shaped surface feature) literally broken by its demotion from planet status, Pluto glumly conducts readers on a tour of the solar system.

You’d be bummed, too. Angrily rejecting the suggestions of “mean scientists” from Earth that “ice dwarf” or “plutoid” might serve as well (“Would you like to be called humanoid?”), Pluto drifts out of the Kuiper Belt to lead readers past the so-called “real” planets in succession. All sport faces with googly eyes in Keller’s bright illustrations, and distinct personalities, too—but also actual physical characteristics (“Neptune is pretty icy. And gassy. I’m not being mean, he just is”) that are supplemented by pages of “fun facts” at the end. Having fended off Saturn’s flirtation, endured Jupiter’s stormy reception (“Keep OFF THE GAS!”) and relentless mockery from the asteroids, and given Earth the cold shoulder, Pluto at last takes the sympathetic suggestion of Venus and Mercury to talk to the Sun. “She’s pretty bright.” A (what else?) warm welcome, plus our local star’s comforting reminders that every celestial body is unique (though “people talk about Uranus for reasons I don’t really want to get into”), and anyway, scientists are still arguing the matter because that’s what “science” is all about, mend Pluto’s heart at last: “Whatever I’m called, I’ll always be PLUTO!”

Hurray for the underdog. (afterword) (Informational picture book. 6-8)

Pub Date: Nov. 12, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-5344-1453-2

Page Count: 48

Publisher: Beach Lane/Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: Aug. 12, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2019

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