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

READ REVIEW

JUNIOR ASTRONAUT

BREAKING THROUGH THE SPACE BARRIER

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

ISBN: N/A

Page Count: -

Publisher: Immediate Media Company

Review Posted Online: Dec. 12, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2013

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THE SNAIL AND THE WHALE

Like an ocean-going “Lion and the Mouse,” a humpback whale and a snail “with an itchy foot” help each other out in this cheery travelogue. Responding to a plaintive “Ride wanted around the world,” scrawled in slime on a coastal rock, whale picks up snail, then sails off to visit waters tropical and polar, stormy and serene before inadvertently beaching himself. Off hustles the snail, to spur a nearby community to action with another slimy message: “SAVE THE WHALE.” Donaldson’s rhyme, though not cumulative, sounds like “The house that Jack built”—“This is the tide coming into the bay, / And these are the villagers shouting, ‘HOORAY!’ / As the whale and the snail travel safely away. . . .” Looking in turn hopeful, delighted, anxious, awed, and determined, Scheffler’s snail, though tiny next to her gargantuan companion, steals the show in each picturesque seascape—and upon returning home, provides so enticing an account of her adventures that her fellow mollusks all climb on board the whale’s tail for a repeat voyage. Young readers will clamor to ride along. (Picture book. 6-8)

Pub Date: March 1, 2004

ISBN: 0-8037-2922-7

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Dial Books

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2004

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ZATHURA

A trite, knock-off sequel to Jumanji (1981). The “Jumanji” box distracts Walter Budwing away from beating up on his little brother Danny, but it’s Danny who discovers the Zathura board inside—and in no time, Earth is far behind, a meteor has smashed through the roof, and a reptilian Zyborg pirate is crawling through the hole. Each throw of the dice brings an ominous new development, portrayed in grainy, penciled freeze frames featuring sculptured-looking figures in constricted, almost claustrophobic settings. The angles of view are, as always, wonderfully dramatic, but not only is much of the finer detail that contributed to Jumanji’s astonishing realism missing, the spectacular damage being done to the Budwings’ house as the game progresses is, by and large, only glimpsed around the picture edges. Naturally, having had his bacon repeatedly saved by his younger sibling’s quick thinking, once Walter falls through a black hole to a time preceding the game’s start, his attitude toward Danny undergoes a sudden, radical transformation. Van Allsburg’s imagination usually soars right along with his accomplished art—but here, both are just running in place. (Picture book. 6-8)

Pub Date: Oct. 28, 2002

ISBN: 0-618-25396-3

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Houghton Mifflin

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2002

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