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




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.


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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This glossy, colorful title in the “I Want To Be” series has visual appeal but poor organization and a fuzzy focus, which limits its usefulness. Each double-paged layout introduces a new topic with six to eight full-color photographs and a single column of text. Topics include types of environmentalists, eco-issues, waste renewal, education, High School of Environmental Studies, environmental vocabulary, history of environmentalism, famous environmentalists, and the return of the eagle. Often the photographs have little to do with the text or are marginal to the topic. For example, a typical layout called “Some Alternative Solutions” has five snapshots superimposed on a double-page photograph of a California wind farm. The text discusses ways to develop alternative forms of energy and “encourage environmentally friendly lifestyles.” Photos include “a healer who treats a patient with alternative therapy using sound and massage,” and “the Castle,” a house built of “used tires and aluminum cans.” Elsewhere, “Did You Know . . . ” shows a dramatic photo of Australia’s Great Barrier Reef, but the text provides odd facts such as “ . . . that in Saudi Arabia there are solar-powered pay phones in the desert?” Some sections seem stuck in, a two-page piece on the effects of “El Niño” or 50 postage-stamp–sized photos of endangered species. The author concludes with places to write for more information and a list of photo credits. Pretty, but little here to warrant purchase. (Nonfiction. 9-11)

Pub Date: Aug. 1, 2000

ISBN: 0-15-201862-X

Page Count: 48

Publisher: Harcourt

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2000

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