Needs more than a gimmick to rise above its superficial content. Look elsewhere.

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BACKWARD SCIENCE

WHAT WAS LIFE LIKE BEFORE WORLD-CHANGING DISCOVERIES?

A reverse history of watershed inventions, from smartphone to scratch plow.

Headed by a series of perfunctory invitations to think about what life would have been like before the arrival of modern (or any) conveniences, Gifford harks back in irregular and often overlapping chunks of time to a standard-issue array of technological breakthroughs. Though he does give African American inventor Granville T. Woods a nod and occasionally challenges received narratives by, for instance, crediting both Eli Whitney and Catherine Green with the invention of the cotton gin and Frenchman Honoré Blanc (rather than Whitney) for interchangeable gun parts, nearly all the figures he names worked in the U.K., or at least Europe, until he reaches the ancient Chinese invention of the compass. Wilson follows suit, mixing stiff-looking individual portraits of pale- and eventually olive-skinned inventors with larger views of racially diverse groups or crowds in, mostly, period European settings. Her depictions of a gory pre-anesthesia surgery and toilets through the ages are amusing, but along with medieval scribes laboring over pre-illuminated manuscripts, the nonfunctional versions of a printing press, catapult, and early cannon on display show a low priority for technical accuracy. The author closes with a glittering promise that new techno-wonders are on the way; a timeline that cuts off in 2008 sends a different message.

Needs more than a gimmick to rise above its superficial content. Look elsewhere. (glossary, index) (Informational picture book. 8-10)

Pub Date: May 19, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-7112-4990-5

Page Count: 64

Publisher: QEB Publishing

Review Posted Online: Feb. 26, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2020

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What better way to make natural history slide down easily? (index) (Nonfiction. 8-10)

GET THE SCOOP ON ANIMAL SNOT, SPIT & SLIME!

FROM SNAKE VENOM TO FISH SLIME, 251 COOL FACTS ABOUT MUCUS, SALIVA & MORE

Cusick floats a slick, select gallery of nature’s spitters, nose-pickers, oozers, and slimers—most but not all nonhuman—atop nourishing globs of scientific information.

Title notwithstanding, the book is limited just to mucus and saliva. Following introductory looks at the major components of each, Cusick describes their often similar uses in nature—in swallowing or expelling foreign matter, fighting disease, predation and defense, camouflage, travel, communication (“Aren’t you glad humans use words to communicate?”), home construction, nutrition, and more. All of this is presented in easily digestible observations placed among, and often referring to, color photos of slime-covered goby fish, a giraffe with its tongue up its nose, various drooling animals, including a white infant, and like photogenic subjects. Two simple experiments cater to hands-on types, but any readers who take delight in sentences like “Some fungus beetles eat snail slime mucus” come away both stimulated and informed.

What better way to make natural history slide down easily? (index) (Nonfiction. 8-10)

Pub Date: Dec. 15, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-63322-115-4

Page Count: 80

Publisher: Moondance/Quarto

Review Posted Online: Sept. 19, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2016

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The photos effectively convey the scope of Harvey’s impact, but while journalistically sound, this informative book doesn’t...

HURRICANE HARVEY

DISASTER IN TEXAS AND BEYOND

The devastation of 2017’s Hurricane Harvey is explained, from the storm’s origin to its ongoing aftermath, in this photo-heavy book.

In retelling the story of how a storm got so big it caused 82 deaths and billions of dollars in damage along the Texas coast, Minneapolis-based author Felix details the science of hurricanes for those unfamiliar and unpacks why this and a series of other hurricanes made for one of the most damaging weather years on record. Although it’s packed with info-boxes, a glossary, tips for safety during a hurricane and helping survivors afterward, a snapshot of five other historic hurricanes, and well-curated photos, it misses an opportunity to convey some of the emotion and pain victims endured and continue to feel. Instead, much of the text feels like a summation of news reports, an efficient attempt to answer the whys of Hurricane Harvey, with only a few direct quotations. Readers learn about Virgil Smith, a Dickinson, Texas, teen who rescued others from floodwaters with an air mattress, but the information is secondhand. The book does answer, clearly and concisely, questions a kid might have about a hurricane, such as what happens to animals at the zoo in such an emergency and how a tropical storm forms in the first place. A portion of the book’s proceeds are to be donated to the Texas Library Association’s Disaster Relief Fund.

The photos effectively convey the scope of Harvey’s impact, but while journalistically sound, this informative book doesn’t capture the fear and shock those who lived through the hurricane must have felt. (Nonfiction. 9-10)

Pub Date: Feb. 1, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-5415-2888-8

Page Count: 36

Publisher: Millbrook/Lerner

Review Posted Online: March 19, 2018

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