This introduction to inventions delivered in cartoony spreads with clomping verse falls on its face. Harper’s text is so bogged down in rhyme and meter that it crosses into inaccuracy. In telling how Commodore Cornelius Vanderbilt sent back his french fries to Chef George Crum, Harper says “One day there was a customer. / Let’s say his name was Rick. / He ordered some of George’s fries / then said, “These are too thick!” (So Crum sliced them paper-thin and invented the potato chip). Harper’s choice to rename Vanderbilt “Rick” is perplexing (rhymes with thick?), and hardly forgivable for the small print on the verso that states “though all the facts have been verified to the best of the author’s ability, it should be noted that creative storytelling and imagination were also used to tell these tales.” Most kids will recognize the verses as awkwardly patched together (“Some inventions solve a problem, / like glasses to help you see, / Then there are others just for fun, / like skates or the Frisbee.”) Too bad, as the goofy paintings will appeal to the age group that is also fascinated by inventions of things like potato chips and chewing gum. Trivial “facts” noted in the margins will also appeal (e.g., under doughnuts, that “the most popular doughnut with kids is the chocolate frosted”), though nothing in the text does much to really explain how the item was invented. An acknowledged list of sources in a single paragraph is also located on the verso, in minute type. This seems designed to inspire rather than explain. Sadly, it does neither. (Nonfiction. 5-8)

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 2001

ISBN: 0-316-34725-6

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Megan Tingley/Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2001

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Though she never says outright that he was a real person, Kurtz introduces newly emergent readers to the historical John Chapman, walking along the Ohio, planting apple seeds, and bartering seedlings to settlers for food and clothing. Haverfield supplies the legendary portions of his tale, with views of a smiling, stylishly ragged, clean-shaven young man, pot on head, wildlife on shoulder or trailing along behind. Kurtz caps her short, rhythmic text with an invitation to “Clap your hands for Johnny Chapman. / Clap your hands for Johnny Appleseed!” An appealing way to open discussions of our country’s historical or legendary past. (Easy reader/nonfiction. 5-6)

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 2004

ISBN: 0-689-85958-9

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Aladdin

Review Posted Online: June 24, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2004

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Outstanding—a breath of fresh air, just like Rocket herself.


Rocket is on a mission…to get her angst-y teen brother to put down his cellphone and look up.

An aspiring astronaut, Rocket makes it a point to set up her telescope and gaze at the stars every night before bedtime. Inspired by Mae Jemison, Rocket, a supercute black girl with braids and a coiffed Afro, hopes to be “the greatest astronaut, star catcher, and space walker who has ever lived.” As the night of the Phoenix meteor shower approaches, Rocket makes fliers inviting everyone in her neighborhood to see the cosmic event at the park. Over the course of her preparations, she shares information about space-shuttle missions, what causes a meteor shower, and when is the best time to see one. Jamal, Rocket’s insufferable older brother, who sports a high-top fade and a hoodie, is completely engrossed in his phone, even as just about everybody in the neighborhood turns up. The bright, digital illustrations are an exuberant celebration of both space and black culture that will simultaneously inspire and ground readers. That the main characters are unapologetically black is made plain through myriad details. Rocket’s mother is depicted cornrowing her daughter’s hair with a wide-toothed comb and hair oil. Gap-toothed Rocket, meanwhile, makes her enthusiasm for space clear in the orange jumpsuit both she and her cat wear—and even Jamal’s excited by the end.

Outstanding—a breath of fresh air, just like Rocket herself. (Picture book. 5-8)

Pub Date: June 25, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-9848-9442-7

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: March 12, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2019

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