A low-key tribute to a now little-remembered expedition that is still capable of catching the imagination.

THE IMPOSSIBLE VOYAGE OF KON-TIKI

Bucking expert opinion, a young Norwegian anthropologist sets out on a balsa log raft to show that pre-Columbian voyagers from South America might well have traveled to the Pacific islands.

Thor Heyerdahl’s 1947 voyage moved the dial from “impossible” to “possible,” but not to “probable,” and as the author herself admits in an afterword, there is still little credible evidence of any sustained westward migration. Nonetheless, the tale of that 4,300-nautical-mile journey makes a grand one. Ray’s prose describes how he sailed with his crew of five from Peru without escort through seas calm and wild, supplementing stored provisions with caught fish, braving months of sudden rogue waves and damaging storms on the way to a final shipwreck on a Polynesian reef. Ray uses watercolors to create soft-edged views of the raft and its small crew, varying her perspectives and her palette as much as possible to avoid potential monotony. One sunset image with the raft in the distance and a school of flying fish in the foreground is particularly effective. She heads her matter-of-fact narrative with quotes from Heyerdahl’s bestselling account on each page, closing with further commentary and a biographical note.

A low-key tribute to a now little-remembered expedition that is still capable of catching the imagination. (map, notes, resource lists) (Informational picture book. 7-9)

Pub Date: Oct. 13, 2015

ISBN: 978-1-58089-620-7

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Charlesbridge

Review Posted Online: June 29, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2015

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A launch-pad fizzle.

THE ULTIMATE BOOK OF SPACE

Flaps and pull-tabs in assorted astro-scenes reveal several wonders of the universe as well as inside glimpses of observatories, rockets, a space suit, and the International Space Station.

Interactive features include a spinnable Milky Way, pop-up launches of Ariane and Soyuz rockets, a solar-system tour, visits to the surfaces of the moon and Mars, and cutaway views beneath long, thin flaps of an international array of launch vehicles. Despite these bells and whistles, this import is far from ready for liftoff. Not only has Antarctica somehow gone missing from the pop-up globe, but Baumann’s commentary (at least in Booker’s translation from the French original) shows more enthusiasm than strict attention to accuracy. Both Mercury and Venus are designated “hottest planet” (right answer: Venus); claims that there is no gravity in space and that black holes are a type of star are at best simplistic; and “we do not know what [other galaxies] actually look like” is nonsensical. Moreover, in a clumsy attempt to diversify the cast on a spread about astronaut training, Latyk gives an (evidently) Asian figure caricatured slit eyes and yellow skin.

A launch-pad fizzle. (Informational pop-up picture book. 7-9)

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 2016

ISBN: 979-1-02760-197-4

Page Count: 24

Publisher: Chronicle Books

Review Posted Online: Aug. 30, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2016

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A floral fantasia for casual browsers as well as budding botanists.

THE BIG BOOK OF BLOOMS

Spirited illustrations brighten a large-format introduction to flowers and their pollinators.

Showing a less Eurocentric outlook than in his Big Book of Birds (2019), Zommer employs agile brushwork and a fondness for graceful lines and bright colors to bring to life bustling bouquets from a range of habitats, from rainforest to desert. Often switching from horizontal to vertical orientations, the topical spreads progress from overviews of major floral families and broad looks at plant anatomy and reproduction to close-ups of select flora—roses and tulips to Venus flytraps and stinking flowers. The book then closes with a shoutout to the conservators and other workers at Kew Gardens (this is a British import) and quick suggestions for young balcony or windowsill gardeners. In most of the low-angled scenes, fancifully drawn avian or insect pollinators with human eyes hover around all the large, luscious blooms, as do one- or two-sentence comments that generally add cogent observations or insights: “All parts of the deadly nightshade plant contain poison. It has been used to poison famous emperors, kings and warriors throughout history.” (Confusingly for the audience, the accurate but limited assertion that bees “often visit blue or purple flowers” appears to be contradicted by an adjacent view of several zeroing in on a yellow toadflax.) Human figures, or, in one scene, hands, are depicted in a variety of sizes, shapes, and skin colors.

A floral fantasia for casual browsers as well as budding botanists. (glossary, index) (Informational picture book. 7-9)

Pub Date: May 5, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-500-65199-5

Page Count: 64

Publisher: Thames & Hudson

Review Posted Online: March 25, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2020

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