Mission most definitely accomplished, thanks to lucid explanations and a steady focus on participatory instruction.

A quick course in rocket science and aerodynamics features ’50s-style retro illustrations and rrrrobust narrrration in a Scots accent.

As introduction, readers are invited to wave a sheet of paper to experience air resistance, then fold it into an airplane (step diagrams provided) and “[t]hrow it as hard as you can into the sky and see how you get on” to watch gravity in action. A flashback through history offers interactive ganders at gunpowder and early rockets. This is followed by further demonstrations (with very simple animations) that show how modern rockets use controlled thrust, stabilizing fins and stages to counter atmospheric effects, the aforementioned gravity and even changes in the center of gravity to reach outer space. Tapping occasional “More Science!” tabs opens sidebars with additional details. A final exam of sorts challenges readers to assemble a rocket from correctly chosen parts, which leads to a dramatic takeoff and a congratulatory “Jnr Astronaut” designation. American readers may miss English equivalents to the metric measurements, but this may prove a salutary reminder that the rest of the world eschews pounds and miles. Though a three-round bout with Mexican wrestler “El Gravitino” partway along is more distracting than instructive, children will come away with a firm grasp of rocketry’s basic principles as well as some relevant physics, such as the difference between “mass” and “weight.”

Mission most definitely accomplished, thanks to lucid explanations and a steady focus on participatory instruction. (iPad informational app. 6-8)

Pub Date: Oct. 30, 2012


Page Count: -

Publisher: Immediate Media Company

Review Posted Online: Dec. 11, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2013


The wriggly narrator of Diary of a Worm (2003) puts in occasional appearances, but it’s his arachnid buddy who takes center stage here, with terse, tongue-in-cheek comments on his likes (his close friend Fly, Charlotte’s Web), his dislikes (vacuums, people with big feet), nervous encounters with a huge Daddy Longlegs, his extended family—which includes a Grandpa more than willing to share hard-won wisdom (The secret to a long, happy life: “Never fall asleep in a shoe.”)—and mishaps both at spider school and on the human playground. Bliss endows his garden-dwellers with faces and the odd hat or other accessory, and creates cozy webs or burrows colorfully decorated with corks, scraps, plastic toys and other human detritus. Spider closes with the notion that we could all get along, “just like me and Fly,” if we but got to know one another. Once again, brilliantly hilarious. (Picture book. 6-8)

Pub Date: Aug. 1, 2005

ISBN: 0-06-000153-4

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Joanna Cotler/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2005



A fair choice, but it may need some support to really blast off.

This rocket hopes to take its readers on a birthday blast—but there may or may not be enough fuel.

Once a year, a one-seat rocket shoots out from Earth. Why? To reveal a special congratulatory banner for a once-a-year event. The second-person narration puts readers in the pilot’s seat and, through a (mostly) ballad-stanza rhyme scheme (abcb), sends them on a journey toward the sun, past meteors, and into the Kuiper belt. The final pages include additional information on how birthdays are measured against the Earth’s rotations around the sun. Collingridge aims for the stars with this title, and he mostly succeeds. The rhyme scheme flows smoothly, which will make listeners happy, but the illustrations (possibly a combination of paint with digital enhancements) may leave the viewers feeling a little cold. The pilot is seen only with a 1960s-style fishbowl helmet that completely obscures the face, gender, and race by reflecting the interior of the rocket ship. This may allow readers/listeners to picture themselves in the role, but it also may divest them of any emotional connection to the story. The last pages—the backside of a triple-gatefold spread—label the planets and include Pluto. While Pluto is correctly labeled as a dwarf planet, it’s an unusual choice to include it but not the other dwarfs: Ceres, Eris, etc. The illustration also neglects to include the asteroid belt or any of the solar system’s moons.

A fair choice, but it may need some support to really blast off. (Picture book. 6-8)

Pub Date: July 31, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-338-18949-0

Page Count: 32

Publisher: David Fickling/Phoenix/Scholastic

Review Posted Online: April 15, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2018

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