A frank, often funny appreciation of our space program’s high-water mark.

READ REVIEW

ROCKET TO THE MOON!

From the Big Ideas That Changed the World series , Vol. 1

Brown launches the Big Ideas That Changed the World series with a graphic commemoration of the program that put boots on the moon.

Brown assumes the narrative voice of Rodman Law, a wisecracking professional daredevil who attempted to ride a rocket in 1913 (“Yeah, this oughta work”) and beat the odds by surviving the explosion. He opens with a capsule history of rocketry from ancient China to the Mercury and Gemini programs before recapping the Apollo missions. Keeping the tone light and offering nods as he goes to historical figures including Johann Schmidlap (“rhymes with ‘Fmidlap’ ”), “cranky loner” Robert Goddard, and mathematician Katherine Johnson, he focuses on technological advances that made space travel possible and on the awesome, sustained effort that brought President John F. Kennedy’s “Big Idea” to fruition, ending the narrative with our last visit to the moon. Aside from the numerous huge, raw explosions that punctuate his easy-to-follow sequential panels, the author uses restrained colors and loose, fluid modeling to give his mildly cartoonish depictions of figures and (then) cutting-edge technology an engagingly informal air. He doesn’t gloss over Laika’s sad fate or the ugly fact that Wernher von Braun built rockets for the Nazis with “concentration-camp prisoners.” Occasional interjections and a closing author’s note also signal Brown’s awareness that for this story, at least, his cast had to be almost exclusively white and male.

A frank, often funny appreciation of our space program’s high-water mark. (index, endnotes, resource lists) (Graphic nonfiction. 8-11)

Pub Date: March 5, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-4197-3404-5

Page Count: 136

Publisher: Amulet/Abrams

Review Posted Online: Nov. 21, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2018

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

A change of pace from the typical blood-and-guts approach to the topic, populous enough to sate even the most rabid...

DINOSAUR EMPIRE!

JOURNEY THROUGH THE MESOZOIC ERA

From the Earth Before Us series , Vol. 1

A quick trip through the Mesozoic Era with a paleontologist is all young Ronnie needs to become a dino-maniac.

So desperate is Ronnie to better a dinosaur exam’s failing grade that she’s willing to follow her odd but scholarly neighbor Miss Lernin into a curbside recycling bin—which, thanks to “Science Magic,” leaves the two in the late Triassic. Between meeting plateosaurs on that stop and a cozy nuzzle with a T. rex in the late Cretaceous, Ronnie gets an earful about dinosaur anatomy, convergent evolution, types of prehistoric life, protofeathers and other recent discoveries, and (as Miss Lernin puts it) “the exciting world of…phylogenetic trees!!” But mostly what she gets are dinosaurs. The graphic panels teem with (labeled) prehistoric life including, along with dozens of dinos, many early mammals and other contemporaries. Howard depicts nearly all of this fauna with snub noses and such friendly expressions that in no time (so to speak) Ronnie is exclaiming “Oh my gosh…Jurassic crocodylomorphs were so cute!” Indeed, her white tutor agrees, but also cool, dangerous, and majestic. Ronnie, who is depicted as a black girl, returns to the present to earn a perfect score on a retaken test and go on to spread the dino-word to her diverse classmates. Though the lack of source or resource lists is disappointing, closing graphic recaps of major prehistoric creatures and, yes, a phylogenetic tree provide some review.

A change of pace from the typical blood-and-guts approach to the topic, populous enough to sate even the most rabid dinophiles. (glossary) (Graphic informational fantasy. 9-11)

Pub Date: Aug. 1, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-4197-2306-3

Page Count: 128

Publisher: Amulet/Abrams

Review Posted Online: June 27, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2017

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

Another terrific case study on the power of a big idea to work profound changes in our lives.

MACHINES THAT THINK!

From the Big Ideas That Changed the World series , Vol. 2

How rows of rocks evolved into the intricate circuitry that runs our homes, drives our cars, and orders our pizza.

Brown lets al-Khwārizmī, the Muslim mathematician who popularized Arabic/Hindu numbers (most notably, for Brown’s purposes here, “0” and “1”), take the role of tour guide. He squires readers through centuries of watershed developments from the abacus and mechanical Pascaline calculator to the punch cards of Joseph-Marie Jacquard, ENIAC, IBM, the transistor, and robots. Closing with an explanation of the Turing test, he offers a mildly cautionary view of the increasingly pervasive roles computers play in our daily lives (“will they be doing all the thinking for us?”) and an appended disquisition on binary numbers. Along the way he chronicles both major and incremental advances as well as offering nods to significant thinkers and doers familiar (Ada Lovelace, Steve Jobs) or otherwise—notably Jean Jennings and six other women charged with figuring out how to program ENIAC but not invited to its unveiling. Though he acknowledges in an afterword that his cast is largely white, European, and male he does what he can throughout to diversify it…and cogently observes at the end that the “domination of the West in the sciences has ended.” Panels are drawn in a loose style that lightens the substantial informational load.

Another terrific case study on the power of a big idea to work profound changes in our lives. (endnotes, timeline) (Graphic nonfiction. 8-11)

Pub Date: March 17, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-4197-4098-5

Page Count: 128

Publisher: Amulet/Abrams

Review Posted Online: Dec. 8, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2020

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet
more