IS THERE LIFE ON MARS?

In a meandering account of almost everything “earthlings” have thought about the Red Planet, Fradin (We Have Conquered Pain, 1996, etc.) explores such topics as the canals on Mars (signs that past inhabitants irrigated their dry planet?), and speculation on its vegetation, rock formations, and fossil microbes. Fradin opens with a discussion of the night sky, and how it was viewed by ancient people; he writes of the centuries in which Mars has influenced people on earth, from the naming of deities, a month, a day of the week, and babies; of the planet’s study through telescopes; and the launching of various probes, along with the revelatory photographs from the Mariner missions. Early planetary theory comes under discussion, as do such turn-of-the-century astronomers as Camille Flammarion and Percival Lowell, and more recent scientists, such as Carl Sagan. The author enlivens the text with quotes, photographs, or references to Mars from popular culture, e.g., Welles’s infamous “War of the Worlds” broadcast. The final section speculates on a Mars colony in the 25th century and travel beyond this solar system at speeds greater than light. Fradin may lose browsers; his enthusiasm for the topic allows him to leap from subject to subject with grace, but readers must follow him closely or they’ll lose the thread. This is an exhaustive catalog of the author’s areas of interest and study; those who share his sensibilities won’t mind going along for the ride. (full-color photographs, bibliography, index, not seen) (Nonfiction. 9-12)

Pub Date: Nov. 1, 1999

ISBN: 0-689-82048-8

Page Count: 144

Publisher: McElderry

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 1999

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SILVER RAIN BROWN

The hazy hot summer seems interminable for a young African-American boy and his pregnant mother. “Can’t cool down!” is the refrain that reverberates throughout the tale, and it’s literally true; lack of rain has put the city on a water conservation alert and the mother worries about all her flowers. Instead of despairing, mother and child surreptitiously water the plants using kitchen pots under the cloak of darkness; the theme of personal resilience and coping permeates the tale. A cooling, life-giving rain heralds the onset of the mother’s labor and the arrival of a new baby sister, Silver Rain Brown. The special bond between mother and son is readily apparent in Flavin’s full-page, full-color illustrations. As for the father, there is only one reference for readers to interpret: “Four a.m. and I can’t sleep, wishing Daddy would come back, wishing, wishing it would rain.” Helldorfer deftly captures the heavy oppressiveness of a summer heat wave, from children attempting to fry eggs on the sidewalk to short tempers and sleeping the hot days away, while Flavin’s illustrations artfully reflect the shimmering cityscapes. (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: March 1, 1999

ISBN: 0-395-73093-7

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Houghton Mifflin

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 1999

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RIVER

In a series of folk-art paintings, Atwell (Barn, 1996) charts an American river’s decline from unspoiled to trash-strewn, then its recovery due to the efforts of concerned people. Although readers may be thrown by the brief text’s vagueness (“They changed the warehouses. They tore down some of the factories. They planted trees. They wanted to share”), the message comes through clearly in the striking riverine scenes, as bright skies and blue waters change to lowering clouds and gray dinginess, then back to idealized views of grassy approaches and families at play. (Picture book. 5-7)

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 1999

ISBN: 0-395-93546-6

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Houghton Mifflin

Review Posted Online: June 24, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 1999

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