Though not encyclopedic, the many topics addressed get first-class treatment.



A handsome and rangy selection of the world’s great systems and phenomena and their workings.

Gifford tackles a broad spectrum of processes, creations and biological systems that have both shaped and inhabited the planet—plus a few items out there in the solar system, such as the workings of the sun and the life and death of stars. But for the most part, the material deals with earthly concerns: how the Earth was formed and reformed; how the dinosaurs (may have) lived and (may have) died; how the sprinter sprints; how wind farms generate electricity; how bridges and tunnels are built, not to forget the pyramids and Roman roads; how one besieged a castle; how the Incans built an empire; how the pirates got rich.Gifford’s explanations are usually nicely sharp and concise—“An earthquake is a sudden release of built-up energy from Earth’s crust. Most earthquakes are caused by extreme forces and pressures that exist near faults—where two plates grind against each other or collide.” He leaves some room for further research at times, though: Fusion “creat[es] the nuclei of helium atoms—and energy.” Throughout, the artwork is marvelous, with bell-clear diagrams, wonderfully atmospheric, dioramalike historical drawings, and crisp photography, which often by themselves fill some of the gaps in the text.

Though not encyclopedic, the many topics addressed get first-class treatment. (Nonfiction/reference. 8-13)

Pub Date: Nov. 5, 2013

ISBN: 978-0-7534-7119-7

Page Count: 160

Publisher: Kingfisher

Review Posted Online: Sept. 14, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2013

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A rich source of terrors both real and manufactured, equally effective in broad daylight or beneath the bedcovers.



A compendium of paranormal doings, natural horrors, and eerie wonders worldwide and (in several senses) beyond.

Maladroit title aside (“…in Bed” would make more sense, cautionwise), this collection of hauntings, cryptids, natural and historical mysteries, and general titillation (“Vampire bats might be coming for you!”) offers a broad array of reasons to stay wide awake. Arranged in no discernible order the 60-plus entries include ghostly sightings in the White House and various castles, body-burrowing guinea worms, the Nazca lines of Peru, Mothman and Nessie, the hastily abandoned city of Pripyat (which, thanks to the Chernobyl disaster, may be habitable again…in 24,000 years), monarch-butterfly migrations, and diverse rains of fish, frogs, fireballs, and unidentified slime. Each is presented in a busy whirl of narrative blocks, photos, graphics, side comments, and arbitrary “Fright-O-Meter” ratings (Paris’ “Creepy Catacombs” earn just a “4” out of 10 and black holes a “3,” but the aforementioned aerial amphibians a full “10”). The headers tend toward the lurid: “Jelly From Space,” “Zombie Ants,” “Mongolian Death Worm.” Claybourne sprinkles multiple-choice pop quizzes throughout for changes of pace.

A rich source of terrors both real and manufactured, equally effective in broad daylight or beneath the bedcovers. (Nonfiction. 9-12)

Pub Date: Aug. 1, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-4263-2841-1

Page Count: 144

Publisher: National Geographic

Review Posted Online: May 15, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2017

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In a large, handsome format, Tarnowska offers six tales plus an abbreviated version of the frame story, retold in formal but contemporary language and sandwiched between a note on the Nights’ place in her childhood in Lebanon and a page of glossary and source notes. Rather than preserve the traditional embedded structure and cliffhanger cutoffs, she keeps each story discrete and tones down the sex and violence. This structure begs the question of why Shahriyar lets Shahrazade [sic] live if she tells each evening’s tale complete, but it serves to simplify the reading for those who want just one tale at a time. Only the opener, “Aladdin and the Wonderful Lamp,” is likely to be familiar to young readers; in others a prince learns to control a flying “Ebony Horse” by “twiddling” its ears, contending djinn argue whether “Prince Kamar el Zaman [or] Princess Boudour” is the more beautiful (the prince wins) and in a Cinderella tale a “Diamond Anklet” subs for the glass slipper. Hénaff’s stylized scenes of domed cityscapes and turbaned figures add properly whimsical visual notes to this short but animated gathering. (Folktales. 10-12)


Pub Date: Dec. 1, 2010

ISBN: 978-1-84686-122-2

Page Count: 128

Publisher: Barefoot Books

Review Posted Online: Dec. 22, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2010

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