THE UPSIDE-DOWN BOOK OF SLOTHS

Fetching and informative.

An engaging introduction to an animal family that’s found its niche in the slow lane.

There are six types of sloths living today, Shreeve writes, but many more used to roam the Americas—from ground sloths like the elephant-size Megatherium to the marine forager Thalassocnus. In this populous family gallery, various species extinct and otherwise pose in leafy settings, often looking up to make eye contact with viewers. The author surrounds their shaggy figures with specific details of their ranges, diet, distinctive characteristics, and (for the modern exemplars) unique physical adaptations for living in trees. Modern sloths’ leisurely ways turn out to be just the ticket, she explains, for an efficient, low-energy lifestyle and for avoiding the notice of predators. Considering they’ve survived for more than 40 million years, they can’t be quite the “slackers” their common moniker implies. Along with all the scientific grist, she also notes that while prehistoric sloths “weren’t all that cute,” modern ones are totally adorable, with babies “hardwired for hugging” and three-toed adults bearing “peaceful smiles” beneath bandit-like masks. “And now…it’s time for a sloth slumber party!” she concludes, beneath a final image of a smiling snoozer comfortably sacked out in a leafy bower.

Fetching and informative. (timeline, author’s note, resource list) (Informational picture book. 6-8)

Pub Date: Sept. 5, 2023

ISBN: 9781324015772

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Norton Young Readers

Review Posted Online: Sept. 23, 2023

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2023

BUTT OR FACE?

A gleeful game for budding naturalists.

Artfully cropped animal portraits challenge viewers to guess which end they’re seeing.

In what will be a crowd-pleasing and inevitably raucous guessing game, a series of close-up stock photos invite children to call out one of the titular alternatives. A page turn reveals answers and basic facts about each creature backed up by more of the latter in a closing map and table. Some of the posers, like the tail of an okapi or the nose on a proboscis monkey, are easy enough to guess—but the moist nose on a star-nosed mole really does look like an anus, and the false “eyes” on the hind ends of a Cuyaba dwarf frog and a Promethea moth caterpillar will fool many. Better yet, Lavelle saves a kicker for the finale with a glimpse of a small parasitical pearlfish peeking out of a sea cucumber’s rear so that the answer is actually face and butt. “Animal identification can be tricky!” she concludes, noting that many of the features here function as defenses against attack: “In the animal world, sometimes your butt will save your face and your face just might save your butt!” (This book was reviewed digitally.)

A gleeful game for budding naturalists. (author’s note) (Informational picture book. 6-8)

Pub Date: July 11, 2023

ISBN: 9781728271170

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Sourcebooks eXplore

Review Posted Online: May 9, 2023

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2023

THE BRAIN IS KIND OF A BIG DEAL

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

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 22, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2019

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