Better ventures into the high frontier abound—and so do better profiles of our leading living science popularizer.

EXPLORE THE COSMOS LIKE NEIL DEGRASSE TYSON

A SPACE SCIENCE JOURNEY

A tour of the solar system and the cosmos beyond, with a celebrity guide standing by.

Saucier opens with two chapters of biography and later shoehorns in a third. Forcibly interspersed are capsule histories of astronomy and the universe, discussions of galaxy and star types, a progression past our astronomical neighbors from the sun to the Oort cloud, and a final omnium-gatherum look at exoplanets, asteroid impacts on Earth and like matters of current interest. Tyson’s role in all this is to be paraphrased, often inanely: “Neil reassures us that dark matter does not interfere with Earth or humans as we move around on our planet’s surface”; “Neil hopes Earth does not end up like Venus….” Not only is the narrative further hampered by clumsy prose, but the author leaves indigo out of the visible spectrum, makes conflicting claims about whether or not Ceres is the only round asteroid, and confusingly asserts that Saturn’s “surface” (which it doesn’t have, at least not a solid one) is less colorful than Jupiter’s due to “a thick layer of clouds” (as if Jupiter lacks the same). Though sometimes misplaced, the many photos, both of space taken by the Hubble Space Telescope and of Tyson at various ages, are a plus but can’t compensate for the book’s many liabilities.

Better ventures into the high frontier abound—and so do better profiles of our leading living science popularizer. (notes, glossary, bibliography, no index) (Nonfiction. 11-13)

Pub Date: March 3, 2015

ISBN: 978-1-63388-014-6

Page Count: 176

Publisher: Prometheus Books

Review Posted Online: Dec. 6, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2014

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Far from comprehensive but visually arresting and, at times, provocative.

HUMAN BODY

From the Information Graphics series

Stylized graphics rendered in saturated hues set this quick overview of body systems apart from the general run.

Arranged in tabbed and color-coded sections, the tour covers familiar ground but often from an unusual angle. The tally of human senses at the beginning, for instance, includes “proprioception” (physical multitasking), and ensuing chapters on the skeletal, circulatory and other systems are capped with a miscellany of body contents and products—from selected parasites and chemicals to farts and sweat. Likewise, descriptions of a dozen physical components of the “Brain Box” are followed by notes on more slippery mental functions like “Consciousness” and “Imagination.” The facts and observations gathered by Rogers are presented as labels or captions. They are interspersed on each spread with flat, eye-dazzling images designed by Grundy not with anatomical correctness in mind but to show processes or relationships at a glance. Thus, to show body parts most sensitive to touch, a silhouette figure sports an oversized hand and foot, plus Homer Simpson lips (though genitals are absent, which seems overcautious as an explicit section on reproduction follows a few pages later), and a stack of bathtubs illustrates the quantity of urine the average adult produces in an average lifetime (385 bathtubs’ worth). There is no backmatter.

Far from comprehensive but visually arresting and, at times, provocative. (Nonfiction. 11-13)

Pub Date: Aug. 26, 2014

ISBN: 978-0-7636-7123-5

Page Count: 80

Publisher: Big Picture/Candlewick

Review Posted Online: April 30, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2014

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Trots in all the tropes except the cherry tree, but the rosy glow may not be misplaced considering his predecessor.

JOE BIDEN

A BIOGRAPHY FOR YOUNG READERS

A hagiographic portrait of the United States’ newest president-elect.

Gormley begins with Biden’s working-class origins, then retraces his development as a “natural leader” from roguish, family-centered senior class president to responsible and still family-centered national one. Focusing as she goes on values or character-revealing anecdotes and sound bites (including multiple early predictions that he would grow up to be president), she turns his father’s motto “if you get knocked down, get up” into a thematic mantra. Gormley portrays his career as a heroic march to the White House past both political challenges and wrenching personal tragedies. The author mixes frank accounts of the latter with heartwarming family stories like the time his sons, then 6 and 7, sat him down in 1976 and told him to marry Jill Jacobs. The author presents Biden’s early positions on, for instance, same-sex marriage or crime as either evolving or errors acknowledged in retrospect, dismisses allegations of sexual harassment, and frames his verbal gaffes as just foibles: “Obama was ‘the first mainstream African American who is articulate and bright and clean and a nice-looking guy.’ Oops. Joe Biden had spoken without thinking.” Side looks at relevant topics from trickle-down economics to the Electoral College inelegantly interrupt the text but serve to fill in some of the historical background, and the tactics and failures of the Trump administration, particularly to address the Covid-19 pandemic, get a good airing. The narrative ends the weekend after Election Day with an analysis of the challenges ahead. No illustrations or index were seen.

Trots in all the tropes except the cherry tree, but the rosy glow may not be misplaced considering his predecessor. (source notes) (Biography. 11-13)

Pub Date: Jan. 12, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-5344-7932-6

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Aladdin

Review Posted Online: Dec. 15, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2021

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