Even readers who received fastidious toilet training and admonitions against potty humor will let down their guard and find...



A perfect blend of humor and clarity—in text and in artwork—explains the anatomy of human waste, the mechanics of a flush toilet and the subsequent treatment of waste in septic and sewer systems.

Cartoony images of three toilet bowls—one being used by a thirsty, shaggy dog, one surrounded by a somber family with a dead pet goldfish, and one heaped with flowers, shown outside a home—adorn the first page of the book, along with this opening sentence: “Everybody knows what a toilet is for.” Genius Macaulay, with Keenan’s (unspecified) assistance, continues this tongue-in-cheek romp with clever drawings as he also carefully discusses such scientific facts as the function of bacteria in breaking down waste; the physics behind the tank, the bowl and the siphon; and the role of wastewater treatment plants in the overall water cycle. Cutaway views aid in showing exactly how various systems work, while unique visual angles of everything from human organs topped with eyeglasses to a bird’s-eye view of a bustling city encourage viewers to venture beyond reading literacy to art appreciation.

Even readers who received fastidious toilet training and admonitions against potty humor will let down their guard and find this book both informative and entertaining. (glossary, resources, index, author’s notes) (Informational early reader. 7 & up)

Pub Date: Sept. 10, 2013

ISBN: 978-1-59643-779-1

Page Count: 32

Publisher: David Macaulay Studio/Roaring Brook

Review Posted Online: July 17, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2013

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Charming, poignant, and thoughtfully woven.


An aspiring scientist and a budding artist become friends and help each other with dream projects.

Unfolding in mid-1980s Sacramento, California, this story stars 12-year-olds Rosalind and Benjamin as first-person narrators in alternating chapters. Ro’s father, a fellow space buff, was killed by a drunk driver; the rocket they were working on together lies unfinished in her closet. As for Benji, not only has his best friend, Amir, moved away, but the comic book holding the clue for locating his dad is also missing. Along with their profound personal losses, the protagonists share a fixation with the universe’s intriguing potential: Ro decides to complete the rocket and hopes to launch mementos of her father into outer space while Benji’s conviction that aliens and UFOs are real compels his imagination and creativity as an artist. An accident in science class triggers a chain of events forcing Benji and Ro, who is new to the school, to interact and unintentionally learn each other’s secrets. They resolve to find Benji’s dad—a famous comic-book artist—and partner to finish Ro’s rocket for the science fair. Together, they overcome technical, scheduling, and geographical challenges. Readers will be drawn in by amusing and fantastical elements in the comic book theme, high emotional stakes that arouse sympathy, and well-drawn character development as the protagonists navigate life lessons around grief, patience, self-advocacy, and standing up for others. Ro is biracial (Chinese/White); Benji is White.

Charming, poignant, and thoughtfully woven. (Fiction. 9-12)

Pub Date: Jan. 12, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-06-300888-5

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Quill Tree Books/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Oct. 27, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2020

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Lecture-y toward the end, but the scary message is delivered with wrenching, dramatic urgency.


In parallel narratives, four young people simultaneously experience the harrowing effects of climate change.

If terrifying readers is an effective way to spur them to take the climate crisis seriously, Gratz does an admirable job, as he plunges his middle schoolers into desperate, life-threatening straits in three wildly dangerous scenarios. For Akira Kristiansen, a peaceful visit to a treasured grove of Sierra Nevada giant sequoias turns into a frantic scramble to outrace a roaring megafire. In Churchill, Manitoba, eighth grade dudes Owen Mackenzie, a White boy, and George Gruyère (Mushkegowuk) are viciously mauled and then stalked by polar bears. At the same time, Puerto Rican Florida resident Natalie Torres is whirled off in the storm surge when a Category 5 hurricane hits Miami. Along with acknowledging in his afterword that the specific incidents portrayed are fictional but are inspired by actual events happening around the world, not just in North America, the author pulls his characters—dedicated climate activists all in the wake of their narrow escapes from death—together to deliver speeches at an international climate rally at the end. “It’s your world,” Gratz finishes in his author’s note, “your future. It’s up to you to decide what you want that future world to look like, and what you can do to make it happen.”

Lecture-y toward the end, but the scary message is delivered with wrenching, dramatic urgency. (Fiction. 9-13)

Pub Date: Oct. 4, 2022

ISBN: 978-1-338-73567-3

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Scholastic

Review Posted Online: July 27, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2022

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