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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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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Blandly laudatory.

I AM WALT DISNEY

From the Ordinary People Change the World series

The iconic animator introduces young readers to each “happy place” in his life.

The tally begins with his childhood home in Marceline, Missouri, and climaxes with Disneyland (carefully designed to be “the happiest place on Earth”), but the account really centers on finding his true happy place, not on a map but in drawing. In sketching out his early flubs and later rocket to the top, the fictive narrator gives Ub Iwerks and other Disney studio workers a nod (leaving his labor disputes with them unmentioned) and squeezes in quick references to his animated films, from Steamboat Willie to Winnie the Pooh (sans Fantasia and Song of the South). Eliopoulos incorporates stills from the films into his cartoon illustrations and, characteristically for this series, depicts Disney as a caricature, trademark mustache in place on outsized head even in childhood years and child sized even as an adult. Human figures default to white, with occasional people of color in crowd scenes and (ahistorically) in the animation studio. One unidentified animator builds up the role-modeling with an observation that Walt and Mickey were really the same (“Both fearless; both resourceful”). An assertion toward the end—“So when do you stop being a child? When you stop dreaming”—muddles the overall follow-your-bliss message. A timeline to the EPCOT Center’s 1982 opening offers photos of the man with select associates, rodent and otherwise. An additional series entry, I Am Marie Curie, publishes simultaneously, featuring a gowned, toddler-sized version of the groundbreaking physicist accepting her two Nobel prizes.

Blandly laudatory. (bibliography) (Picture book/biography. 6-8)

Pub Date: Sept. 10, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-7352-2875-7

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Dial Books

Review Posted Online: Aug. 18, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2019

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