An engaging overview of Lewis Latimer’s life and work.

LEWIS LATIMER

ENGINEERING WIZARD

From the VIP series

Lewis Latimer, born free to formerly enslaved parents, served as a soldier in the Civil War and taught himself the skills to become a draftsman, polyglot, inventor, author, and poet.

Though he left school at the age of 10 to help his father support their family, Latimer became an important figure in Alexander Graham Bell’s attempt to secure a patent for the telephone and the invention of the filament in incandescent light bulbs that made them safer to use. Later, he worked in Thomas Edison’s company, and after retiring, he turned to civil rights work. Though brief, this biography is both engaging and well researched. Patrick draws on Latimer’s private papers as well as secondary sources, crafting a narrative that entwines his professional accomplishments with personal milestones. She punctuates it with historical notes, introductions to other inventors both African American and White, and general information that helps to contextualize the subject matter, such as an explanation of patents and another of the Industrial Revolution. Duncan’s black-and-white illustrations make it approachable for young readers transitioning to nonfiction chapter books, and they make it clear that Latimer achieved what he did in spaces dominated by White men. The backmatter includes a list of Latimer’s patents, a timeline, brief introductions to four contemporary African American inventors, and a bibliography. Series companion Dr. Mae Jemison: Brave Rocketeer, by Heather Alexander and illustrated by Jennifer Bricking, publishes simultaneously; together they launch the VIP biography series.

An engaging overview of Lewis Latimer’s life and work.   (Biography. 8-12)

Pub Date: Jan. 5, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-06-297807-3

Page Count: 112

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Nov. 18, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2020

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Friends of these pollinators will be best served elsewhere.

1001 BEES

This book is buzzing with trivia.

Follow a swarm of bees as they leave a beekeeper’s apiary in search of a new home. As the scout bees traverse the fields, readers are provided with a potpourri of facts and statements about bees. The information is scattered—much like the scout bees—and as a result, both the nominal plot and informational content are tissue-thin. There are some interesting facts throughout the book, but many pieces of trivia are too, well trivial, to prove useful. For example, as the bees travel, readers learn that “onion flowers are round and fluffy” and “fennel is a plant that is used in cooking.” Other facts are oversimplified and as a result are not accurate. For example, monofloral honey is defined as “made by bees who visit just one kind of flower” with no acknowledgment of the fact that bees may range widely, and swarm activity is described as a springtime event, when it can also occur in summer and early fall. The information in the book, such as species identification and measurement units, is directed toward British readers. The flat, thin-lined artwork does little to enhance the story, but an “I spy” game challenging readers to find a specific bee throughout is amusing.

Friends of these pollinators will be best served elsewhere. (Informational picture book. 8-10)

Pub Date: May 18, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-500-65265-7

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Thames & Hudson

Review Posted Online: April 14, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2021

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Contentwise, an arbitrary assortment…but sure to draw fans of comics, of science, or of both.

FLASH FACTS

Flash, Batman, and other characters from the DC Comics universe tackle supervillains and STEM-related topics and sometimes, both.

Credited to 20 writers and illustrators in various combinations, the 10 episodes invite readers to tag along as Mera and Aquaman visit oceanic zones from epipelagic to hadalpelagic; Supergirl helps a young scholar pick a science-project topic by taking her on a tour of the solar system; and Swamp Thing lends Poison Ivy a hand to describe how DNA works (later joining Swamp Kid to scuttle a climate-altering scheme by Arcane). In other episodes, various costumed creations explain the ins and outs of diverse large- and small-scale phenomena, including electricity, atomic structure, forensic techniques, 3-D printing, and the lactate threshold. Presumably on the supposition that the characters will be more familiar to readers than the science, the minilectures tend to start from simple basics, but the figures are mostly both redrawn to look more childlike than in the comics and identified only in passing. Drawing styles and page designs differ from chapter to chapter but not enough to interrupt overall visual unity and flow—and the cast is sufficiently diverse to include roles for superheroes (and villains) of color like Cyborg, Kid Flash, and the Latina Green Lantern, Jessica Cruz. Appended lists of websites and science-based YouTube channels, plus instructions for homespun activities related to each episode, point inspired STEM-winders toward further discoveries.

Contentwise, an arbitrary assortment…but sure to draw fans of comics, of science, or of both. (Graphic nonfiction. 9-12)

Pub Date: Feb. 2, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-77950-382-4

Page Count: 160

Publisher: DC

Review Posted Online: Jan. 13, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2021

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