An appealing mix of lively poems, engrossing pictures, and smart bookmaking.



Sixteen playful poems excavate soil and its symbiotic life-forms, targeting the subterranean habits of 12 animal species.

A tongue-in-cheek “Dirt Recipe” lists ingredients that serve “a host of hungry fungi / and at least a billion germs.” Some poems focus on how and what critters eat. The doodlebug’s earthen funnel can catch ants while the trapdoor spider’s ingenious hinged snare captures others. Harrison’s accessible verse frequently employs rhymed couplets: “A thousand ants, without a sound, / build a city underground.” Elsewhere, he explores poetic forms: “Doodlebug” is a funnel-shaped concrete poem; “Gopher Tortoise” is a villanelle. Cosgrove’s pictures expertly exploit the clever vertical orientation, with double-page spreads depicting both aboveground and subterrestrial realms. Above the gutter, “Yellow Jacket Wasp” depicts two, one flying, another climbing from a small hole in the ground. Below, another 15 emerge from a nest whose dark opening ominously promises more. Occasionally, the artist extends a poem’s meaning by presenting two views. For “Bumblebee,” a queen is shown among autumn leaves, then burrowed into a cozy winterized home. Two kids of color appear occasionally. The color palette combines naturalistic and fanciful hues: Wasps and bees sport their black and yellow stripes amid woodland scenes in seafoam, teal, and dusty lavender. Harrison includes additional notes for the poems’ 14 subjects, with at least one overgeneralization. (Not all grubs are “baby Japanese beetle[s].”)

An appealing mix of lively poems, engrossing pictures, and smart bookmaking. (web citations) (Informational picture book/poetry. 5-9)

Pub Date: June 8, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-8234-3861-7

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Holiday House

Review Posted Online: May 5, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2021

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It’s nothing new in territory or angle, but it’s still a serviceable survey with reasonably durable moving parts.


Flaps, pull tabs, and pop-ups large and small enhance views of our planet’s inside, outside, atmosphere, biosphere, and geophysics.

It’s a hefty, high-speed tour through Earth’s features, climates, and natural resources, with compressed surveys of special topics on multileveled flaps and a spread on the history of life that is extended by a double-foldout wing. But even when teeming with small images of land forms, wildlife, or diverse groups of children and adults, Balicevic’s bright cartoon illustrations look relatively uncrowded. Although the quality of the paper engineering is uneven, the special effects add dramatic set pieces: Readers need to hold in place a humongous column of cumulonimbus clouds for it to reach its full extension; a volcano erupts in a gratifyingly large scale; and, on the plate-tectonics spread, a pull tab gives readers the opportunity to run the Indian Plate into the Eurasian one and see the Himalayas bulge up. A final spread showing resources, mostly renewable ones, being tapped ends with an appeal to protect “our only home.” All in all, it’s a likely alternative to Dougal Jerram’s Utterly Amazing Earth, illustrated by Dan Crisp and Molly Lattin (2017), being broader in scope and a bit more generous in its level of detail.

It’s nothing new in territory or angle, but it’s still a serviceable survey with reasonably durable moving parts. (Informational novelty. 6-9)

Pub Date: Aug. 27, 2019

ISBN: 979-1-02760-562-0

Page Count: 18

Publisher: Twirl/Chronicle

Review Posted Online: July 24, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2019

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More thoughtful, sometimes exhilarating encounters with nature.


From the Over and Under series

In a new entry in the Over and Under series, a paddleboarder glimpses humpback whales leaping, floats over a populous kelp forest, and explores life on a beach and in a tide pool.

In this tale inspired by Messner’s experiences in Monterey Bay in California, a young tan-skinned narrator, along with their light-skinned mom and tan-skinned dad, observes in quiet, lyrical language sights and sounds above and below the sea’s serene surface. Switching perspectives and angles of view and often leaving the family’s red paddleboards just tiny dots bobbing on distant swells, Neal’s broad seascapes depict in precise detail bat stars and anchovies, kelp bass, and sea otters going about their business amid rocky formations and the swaying fronds of kelp…and, further out, graceful moon jellies and—thrillingly—massive whales in open waters beneath gliding pelicans and other shorebirds. After returning to the beach at day’s end to search for shells and to spot anemones and decorator crabs, the child ends with nighttime dreams of stars in the sky meeting stars in the sea. Appended nature notes on kelp and 21 other types of sealife fill in details about patterns and relationships in this rich ecosystem. (This book was reviewed digitally.)

More thoughtful, sometimes exhilarating encounters with nature. (author’s note, further reading) (Informational picture book. 6-9)

Pub Date: Sept. 13, 2022

ISBN: 978-1-79720-347-8

Page Count: 56

Publisher: Chronicle Books

Review Posted Online: June 22, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2022

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