The lengthy text and difficult material will limit the audience for this, perhaps just to the science students offered...

STRONGER THAN STEEL

SPIDER SILK DNA AND THE QUEST FOR BETTER BULLETPROOF VESTS, SUTURES, AND PARACHUTE ROPE

From the Scientists in the Field series

The Scientists in the Field series explores genetic engineering.

Spider silk is useful in myriad ways but relatively rare in the natural world. Scientist Randy Lewis has spent his career searching for ways to produce more of this miracle fiber, using modern genetic techniques to make the genes of the golden orb weaver spider part of the heritage of goats, alfalfa and silkworms. His work is the subject of this latest series entry, which disappoints in its lack of clarity. An intriguing introduction to the spiders (illustrated with a photo of one on a child’s face) is followed by a daunting explanation of DNA. Then, chapter by chapter, Heos describes the work that has produced transgenic animals and plants that will yield silk protein and even the silk itself. Final chapters describe Lewis’ background, offer more detail about genetic procedures and silk production, and discuss ethical questions. Between each chapter is a substantial sidebar that usually fills the following double-page spread, confusing readers who have been led to expect something different from chapter-concluding transitional sentences. There are many characters to keep straight, and both scientists and goats are referred to by their first names.

The lengthy text and difficult material will limit the audience for this, perhaps just to the science students offered directions for isolating strawberry DNA in one sidebar. (Nonfiction. 12-16) 

Pub Date: Feb. 26, 2013

ISBN: 978-0-547-68126-9

Page Count: 80

Publisher: Houghton Mifflin

Review Posted Online: Dec. 26, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2013

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If readers can make sense of this story, they’re likely able to tackle the original instead.

THE PERFECT HORSE

THE DARING RESCUE OF HORSES KIDNAPPED DURING WORLD WAR II

Letts adapts her bestselling 2016 work of the same title for young readers.

As World War II sweeps across Europe, the fates of several master horsemen become entwined. In Poland, Andrzej Kristalovich, head of the national stud farm, sees his life’s work disappear when Russian soldiers capture his horses. Nazi Germans, invading next, restore some of the animals in order to breed them for the Third Reich. Meanwhile, in Vienna, Olympic medalist Alois Podhajsky is desperately trying to care for the Lipizzan stallions at the famed Spanish Riding School even as the invading Germans capture the Lipizzan stud farms and move most of the horses to Czechoslovakia. Meanwhile, at an American Army base in Kansas, Maj. Hank Reed is overseeing the cavalry’s transition from horses, no longer useful in warfare, to mechanized vehicles. These threads come together at the end of the war when Reed orchestrates a complex rescue of both sets of horses. This is not a particularly successful adaptation. It’s shorter than the original, but both the storyline and timeline are fragmented, making it difficult for the putative audience of 8- to 12-year-olds to follow, and extraneous details fail to advance the main narrative. Aside from a map and archival images (both not seen), there is no timeline or other visual aid to help organize the narrative. Characters are all white.

If readers can make sense of this story, they’re likely able to tackle the original instead. (author’s note, characters, bibliography) (Nonfiction. 10-14)

Pub Date: Feb. 12, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-525-64474-3

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Delacorte

Review Posted Online: Oct. 16, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2018

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BLIZZARD!

THE STORM THAT CHANGED AMERICA

In the same format as his Newbery Honor title The Great Fire (1995), Murphy brings the blizzard of 1888 to life. He shows how military weather-monitoring practices, housing and employment conditions, and politics regarding waste management, transportation monopolies, and utilities regulation, all contributed to—and were subsequently affected by—the disaster. He does so through an appealing narrative, making use of first-hand accounts whose sources he describes in his notes at the end (though, disappointingly he cites nothing directly in the text). The wealth of quotable material made available through the letters of members of “the Society of Blizzard Men and Blizzard Ladies” and other sources help to make the story vivid. Many drawings and photographs (some of the blizzard, but most of related scenes) illustrate the text. These large reproductions are all in a sepia-tone that matches the color of the typeface—an effect that feels over-the-top, but doesn’t detract significantly from the power of the story. Murphy’s ability to pull in details that lend context allows him to tell this story of a place in time through the lens of a single, dramatic episode that will engage readers. This is skillfully done: humorous, jaw-dropping, thought-provoking, and chilling. (index) (Nonfiction. 9-14)

Pub Date: Nov. 1, 2000

ISBN: 0-590-67309-2

Page Count: 160

Publisher: Scholastic

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2000

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