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

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

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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

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This biography sometimes feels like a great song, so sad it can leave you joyous.

NATAN SHARANSKY

FREEDOM FIGHTER FOR SOVIET JEWS

Stories about heroes are almost always a little sad.

Like many activists, Natan Sharansky was punished nearly every time he fought for the goals he believed in. He was accused publicly of espionage by the Soviet authorities and spent years in prison and in labor camps, separated from his wife. The saddest part is that, for many people, his goals would have qualified as ordinary life: He wanted to live in Israel and practice his religion in the open. He eventually won those rights for himself and other Soviet Jews. Even after being locked up for close to a decade and completing several hunger strikes, he still had a remarkable sense of humor. While the dialogue captures emotional tenors well throughout, the most memorable lines in this graphic biography are often jokes he made. When KGB agents followed him into a taxi, he asked if they’d split the cab fare, and after years of constant surveillance, he said, “It’s like I have two shadows: one that is mine, and the other the KGB’s.” The text in the panels’ narrative boxes is less engaging, often coming across as boilerplate, but the pictures help to capture Sharansky’s personality. Though the likenesses—especially the pictures of presidents—aren’t always convincing, some of the drawings are vivid enough to look nearly alive. The historical figures in the illustrations are almost all light-skinned Soviets, Israelis, and Americans.

This biography sometimes feels like a great song, so sad it can leave you joyous. (timeline, glossary, reading list, historical notes) (Graphic biography. 8-11)

Pub Date: May 1, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-5415-8899-8

Page Count: 64

Publisher: Kar-Ben

Review Posted Online: March 17, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2021

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