UP & DOWN

THE ADVENTURES OF JOHN JEFFRIES, FIRST AMERICAN TO FLY

Brown’s latest (Older than Dirt, 2017, etc.) follows the journey of balloonist John Jeffries, doctor and meteorologist, through his flight across the English Channel in 1785.

At the end of the American Revolution, Jeffries, a Tory, fled to England, where he was swiftly engulfed in “balloon mania.” An avid amateur meteorologist, Jeffries was thrilled by the possibility of recording new information at different altitudes. Jeffries quickly teamed up with Frenchman Jean-Pierre Blanchard (husband of famed balloonist Sophie Blanchard) for two flights. For their second, the duo had an outlandish proposition: to be the first to fly across the English Channel from Britain to France. Unfortunately, the flight didn’t go as planned, and the duo was forced to unload as much ballast as possible—including their clothes—before ultimately landing unharmed, albeit underdressed, in France. Brown’s oil-pencil–and-watercolor illustrations are true to form, but readers may find themselves with more questions than answers thanks to uneven plotting and a lack of focus. Slight space is devoted to Jeffries pre-Channel flight, 18th-century ballooning culture, and the science of ballooning, while over half of the book is devoted to his most famous flight. Frustratingly, this causes the narrative to read like neither a full introductory biography of Jeffries’ life nor a strict account of the Channel flight. Jeffries, Blanchard, and spectators are all white.

“Up and down” indeed. (endnote, author’s note, bibliography, sources) (Informational picture book. 6-9)

Pub Date: June 12, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-58089-812-6

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Charlesbridge

Review Posted Online: March 27, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2018

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A good overview of this complex, essential organ, with an energetic seasoning of silliness.

THE BRAIN IS KIND OF A BIG DEAL

An introduction to the lead guitar and vocalist for the Brainiacs—the human brain.

The brain (familiar to readers of Seluk’s “The Awkward Yeti” webcomic, which spun off the adult title Heart and Brain, 2015) looks like a dodgeball with arms and legs—pinkish, sturdy, and roundish, with a pair of square-framed spectacles bestowing an air of importance and hipness. Other organs of the body—tongue, lungs, stomach, muscle, and heart—are featured as members of the brain’s rock band (the verso of the dust jacket is a poster of the band). Seluk’s breezy, conversational prose and brightly colored, boldly outlined cartoon illustrations deliver basic information. The brain’s role in keeping the heart beating and other automatic functions, directing body movements, interpreting sights and sounds, remembering smells and tastes, and regulating sleep and hunger are all explained, prose augmented by dialogue balloons and information sidebars. Seluk points out, importantly, that feelings originate in the brain: “You can control how you react…but your feelings happen no matter what.” The parodied album covers on the front endpapers (including the Beatles, Pink Floyd, Green Day, Run DMC, Queen, Nirvana) will amuse parents—or at least grandparents—and the rear endpapers serve up band members’ clever social media and texting screenshots. Backmatter includes a glossary and further brain trivia but no resources or bibliography.

A good overview of this complex, essential organ, with an energetic seasoning of silliness. (Informational picture book. 6-8)

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-338-16700-9

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Orchard/Scholastic

Review Posted Online: June 23, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2019

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It’s nothing new in territory or angle, but it’s still a serviceable survey with reasonably durable moving parts.

THE ULTIMATE BOOK OF PLANET EARTH

Flaps, pull tabs, and pop-ups large and small enhance views of our planet’s inside, outside, atmosphere, biosphere, and geophysics.

It’s a hefty, high-speed tour through Earth’s features, climates, and natural resources, with compressed surveys of special topics on multileveled flaps and a spread on the history of life that is extended by a double-foldout wing. But even when teeming with small images of land forms, wildlife, or diverse groups of children and adults, Balicevic’s bright cartoon illustrations look relatively uncrowded. Although the quality of the paper engineering is uneven, the special effects add dramatic set pieces: Readers need to hold in place a humongous column of cumulonimbus clouds for it to reach its full extension; a volcano erupts in a gratifyingly large scale; and, on the plate-tectonics spread, a pull tab gives readers the opportunity to run the Indian Plate into the Eurasian one and see the Himalayas bulge up. A final spread showing resources, mostly renewable ones, being tapped ends with an appeal to protect “our only home.” All in all, it’s a likely alternative to Dougal Jerram’s Utterly Amazing Earth, illustrated by Dan Crisp and Molly Lattin (2017), being broader in scope and a bit more generous in its level of detail.

It’s nothing new in territory or angle, but it’s still a serviceable survey with reasonably durable moving parts. (Informational novelty. 6-9)

Pub Date: Aug. 27, 2019

ISBN: 979-1-02760-562-0

Page Count: 18

Publisher: Twirl/Chronicle

Review Posted Online: July 24, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2019

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