A well-intentioned and good-looking compilation but virtually unusable as a teaching tool.


This picture book depicting 80 historic maps from the collection of the British Library is a self-described Eurocentric creation.

According to the introduction, the maps “give a unique view of how Europeans used to see the world—with themselves as the most important people in it!” But that isn’t the only drawback with this publication. The range in age, location, and historical context of the maps makes for a major challenge to readers of the age for which the book is apparently intended. The maps are organized by continent, showing an assortment of countries, cities, and provinces ranging from medieval times to the 19th century. The maps are unique historic documents, each requiring considerable scholarship to even begin to understand them historically and linguistically. Many are illegible due to the small size of reproduction. In an effort to make them accessible to children, each is dotted with a miscellany of colored labels containing trivia about the region, often unrelated to the era of the map. A 13th-century map of Britain bears a label naming popular dishes in the modern U.K., and a 16th-century map of London refers to West End theaters. Labels on each map challenge readers to find specific items, which is often impossible to do at this scale.

A well-intentioned and good-looking compilation but virtually unusable as a teaching tool. (glossary, index) (Nonfiction. 8-11)

Pub Date: Sept. 15, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-2281-0010-2

Page Count: 96

Publisher: Firefly

Review Posted Online: Aug. 21, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2017

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Nothing to roar over but a pleaser for fans of all things big, toothy, and extinct.



An illustrated overview of life’s history on Earth, moving backward from now to its beginnings 3.5 billion years ago.

Zoehfeld begins with the present epoch, using the unofficial Anthropocene moniker, then skips back 12,000 years to the beginning of the Holocene and so back by periods to the Ediacaran and its predecessors, with pauses along the way to marvel at the widespread End-Cretaceous and End-Permian extinctions. Along with offering general observations about each time’s climate and distinctive biota, she occasionally veers off for glances at climate change, food webs, or other tangential topics. In each chapter she also identifies several creatures of the era that Csotonyi illustrates, usually but not always with photographic precision in scenes that are long on action but mostly light on visible consumption or gore. If some of the landscape views are on the small side, they do feature arresting portraits of, for instance, a crocodilian Smilosuchus that seems to be 100% toothy maw and a pair of early rodents resembling fierce, horned guinea pigs dubbed Ceratogaulus. Though largely a gimmick—the chapters are independent, organized internally from early to late, and could be reshuffled into conventional order with little or no adjustment to the narrative—the reverse-time arrangement does afford an unusual angle on just how far deep time extends.

Nothing to roar over but a pleaser for fans of all things big, toothy, and extinct. (glossary, index) (Nonfiction. 9-11)

Pub Date: Sept. 3, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-912920-05-1

Page Count: 48

Publisher: What on Earth Books

Review Posted Online: June 23, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2019

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Appealing fare for STEM-centric flipping and dipping.


From the In a Nutshell series

A gallery of gadgets, gizmos, and groundbreaking innovations, from sliced bread to smartphones.

Concept definitely trumps content, as Gifford introduces in no discernible order an arbitrary 100 inventions in a likewise arbitrary 100 words (more or less) apiece. For each, Gu supplies brightly hued representations of a fancifully rendered version, often being used by racially diverse groups of figures sporting stylized features and a range of skin colors. The entries go back to prehistoric times to include the wheel, scratch plow, and writing but mainly comprise more recent innovations like printing and telegraphs, bubble wrap and search engines, lasers and plastics. Amid all these usual suspects lurk some lower-profile picks, from paper bags and Kevlar to the dishwasher and Barbie dolls. All of the inventions in the previous sentence and others besides, the author notes, were invented by women—in fact, for all the brevity of his anecdotes and descriptions, he’s careful to identify specific inventors whenever possible, and he also highlights any who are or were particularly young. Closing timeline notwithstanding, this isn’t offering any coherent picture of the grand sweep of technological advance, but the format will draw casual browsers and collectors of random facts. 100 Things To Know About Art, by Susie Hodge and illustrated by Marcos Farina, publishes simultaneously, taking a similar approach to visual arts, covering periods, media, techniques, and more.

Appealing fare for STEM-centric flipping and dipping. (index, glossary, resource lists) (Nonfiction. 8-11)

Pub Date: Oct. 5, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-7112-6808-1

Page Count: 112

Publisher: Happy Yak

Review Posted Online: Sept. 15, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2021

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