A brave but labored effort, too crude and piecemeal to do more than hint at this new tech’s potential.

VIRTUAL REALITY

An introduction to VR, with a cardboard viewer and five downloadable environments to sample.

Copious safety precautions and instructions—first for downloading the requisite smartphone app, then for assembling and using the viewer (incorporating said smartphone)—lead off this title. Following this, basic explanations of how virtual worlds are designed and rendered are interspersed with pages constructed around scannable links to 3-D views of dinosaurs, gladiators, volcanoes, pond life, and the International Space Station. In between these pages is further information on the technology behind VR and its uses. Users navigate the virtual worlds by physically turning their heads (or their whole bodies) and “pointing” their viewers at dots strewn about the vistas. Pausing at these marked points in each environment opens up alternate views or triggers a few lines of streaming informational snippets, read by an impersonal narrator; these reinforce without duplicating text on the equivalent printed pages but sometimes go off on tangents—with multiple mentions of toilets and waste on the ISS, for instance, and T. Rex coprolites (or, as the narrator mispronounces it, “corprolites”). The virtual worlds are modeled with decent realism but are so grainy that exploring them for more than a few minutes at a time (the precautions recommend 15, but even that may be pushing it) courts eyestrain. With but rare exceptions the human children and researchers in the photos are white.

A brave but labored effort, too crude and piecemeal to do more than hint at this new tech’s potential. (stickers, index) (Informational novelty. 10-12)

Pub Date: Nov. 7, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-4654-6548-1

Page Count: 32

Publisher: DK Publishing

Review Posted Online: Oct. 28, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2017

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Rosy, bland hero worship.

NEIL ARMSTRONG

FIRST MAN ON THE MOON

From the Trailblazers series

A panegyric to the “reluctant hero” who first stepped onto the moon’s surface.

Woolf digs into Armstrong’s life from first airplane ride at the age of 5 to his death in 2012, taking some glances behind the scenes but with a focus on heroic exploits during the Korean War, as a test pilot, and in space. The famous line is rendered “That’s one small step for [a] man,” with a disclaimer, but overall the author tells a sketchy tale with significant details missing—such as any mention of the racist and sexist aspects of this country’s early space program. Even the return flight of Apollo 11 is covered in just a timeline and one anticlimactic sentence: “After an uneventful ride back to Earth, the astronauts splashed down southwest of Hawaii.” Ho-hum. All or most of the black-and-white illustrations are (poorly) redrawn from photographs; despite inserted wisecracks and actual quotes, they are so lifeless that even a version of the renowned Earthrise has a drab, distant look. A scant handful of further resources and a space-exploration timeline that spans only 1973 to 2015 follow a closing flurry of tributes to Armstrong’s achievements and character. Armstrong is definitely a historical figure worth knowing…but the recent spate of more-nuanced and -dramatic accounts of the space program spoil readers for choice, and this doesn’t stand out as a first or even second one.

Rosy, bland hero worship. (glossary, index) (Biography. 10-12)

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-593-12401-7

Page Count: 192

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: June 16, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2019

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I WANT TO BE AN ENVIRONMENTALIST

This glossy, colorful title in the “I Want To Be” series has visual appeal but poor organization and a fuzzy focus, which limits its usefulness. Each double-paged layout introduces a new topic with six to eight full-color photographs and a single column of text. Topics include types of environmentalists, eco-issues, waste renewal, education, High School of Environmental Studies, environmental vocabulary, history of environmentalism, famous environmentalists, and the return of the eagle. Often the photographs have little to do with the text or are marginal to the topic. For example, a typical layout called “Some Alternative Solutions” has five snapshots superimposed on a double-page photograph of a California wind farm. The text discusses ways to develop alternative forms of energy and “encourage environmentally friendly lifestyles.” Photos include “a healer who treats a patient with alternative therapy using sound and massage,” and “the Castle,” a house built of “used tires and aluminum cans.” Elsewhere, “Did You Know . . . ” shows a dramatic photo of Australia’s Great Barrier Reef, but the text provides odd facts such as “ . . . that in Saudi Arabia there are solar-powered pay phones in the desert?” Some sections seem stuck in, a two-page piece on the effects of “El Niño” or 50 postage-stamp–sized photos of endangered species. The author concludes with places to write for more information and a list of photo credits. Pretty, but little here to warrant purchase. (Nonfiction. 9-11)

Pub Date: Aug. 1, 2000

ISBN: 0-15-201862-X

Page Count: 48

Publisher: Harcourt

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2000

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