A fresh, factual blast with hints of drollery.

NOSE KNOWS

WILD WAYS ANIMALS SMELL THE WORLD

A survey of the many ways we and other animals use and detect odors.

In this large-format French import, lightweight flaps hide inside views, diagrams, and close-ups added to De Gastold’s whimsical scenes of expressively posed animals and (racially diverse) people sniffing air or water to track down prey or other food, identify mates or offspring, detect danger, and offer clues to migratory routes. The flap on which two seals swim beneath a thick layer of sea ice that separates them from a sniffing polar bear lifts to reveal a seal coming up for breath—right into the jaws of the bear; a pigeon-shaped flap lifts to reveal an aerial view of that pigeon sniffing its way home. Figueras explains in simple but specific language how the “high tech instruments” of creatures including dogs, sharks, elephants (“superheroes of smell”), and ants process pheromones and other odorant molecules. Readers also learn, memorably, how male giraffes smell and taste the urine of females to check out their hormone levels and male ring-tailed lemurs produce a “stomach-churning perfume” to engage in “smell battles” with rivals. These whiffs of humor lighten the informational load…though serious-minded young biologists will still prefer Mary Holland’s Animal Noses (2019), with its more naturalistic photographs. Suggested titles for further reading are limited to three British books and two in French.

A fresh, factual blast with hints of drollery. (index) (Informational novelty. 7-9)

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-912920-07-5

Page Count: 38

Publisher: What on Earth Books

Review Posted Online: Aug. 26, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2019

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A promising debut spoiled by a design issue and cultural insensitivity.

HOOT AND HOWL ACROSS THE DESERT

LIFE IN THE WORLD'S DRIEST DESERTS

Creatively stylized images of flora and fauna native to some 15 deserts around the world.

Interspersing her examination with closer looks at camels and at sand dunes, the bird communities associated with acacia trees, and like intriguing sidelights, Tzomaka poses groups of select residents from all three types of desert (hot, cold, and coastal) against sere backdrops, with pithily informative comments on characteristic behaviors and survival strategies. But significant bits of her presentation are only semilegible, with black type placed on deep blue or purple backgrounds. And rarely (if ever) have desert animals looked so…floral. Along with opting for a palette of bright pinks, greens, and purples rather than natural hues for her flat, screen-print–style figures, Tzomaka decorates them with contrasting whirls of petals and twining flourishes, stars, scallops, pinwheels, and geometric lines or tessellations. Striking though these fancies are, artistic license has led her into some serious overgeneralizations, as she claims to be drawing on regional folk motifs for inspiration—justifying the ornate ruffs and borders on creatures of the Kalahari with a vague note that “African tribes make accessories and jewelry…decorated with repeated lines, circles and dots,” for instance, and identifying a Northwest Coastal pattern on an arctic fox as “Inuit.” Readers may find less shifty footing in more conventional outings like Jim Arnosky’s Watching Desert Wildlife (1998).

A promising debut spoiled by a design issue and cultural insensitivity. (map, index) (Informational picture book. 7-9)

Pub Date: April 21, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-500-65198-8

Page Count: 56

Publisher: Thames & Hudson

Review Posted Online: Feb. 26, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2020

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A visually striking, compelling recollection.

FROM THE TOPS OF THE TREES

The author recounts a formative childhood experience that continues to inspire her today.

Born to Hmong refugees, Kalia has only ever known the confines of the Ban Vinai refugee camp in Thailand. Even while playing with her cousins, reminders of the hardships of their life are always present. She overhears the aunties sharing their uncertainty and fear of the future. They are a people with no home country and are still trying to find peace. Kalia asks her father why they live behind a gate and wonders what lies beyond the fences that surround the camp. The next day they climb a tall tree, and he shows her the vast expanse around them, from familiar camp landmarks to distant mountains “where the sky meets earth.” This story of resilience and generational hope is told in an expressive, straightforward narrative style. The simplicity of the text adds a level of poignancy that moves readers to reflection. The layered and heavily textured illustrations complement the text while highlighting the humanity of the refugees and providing a quiet dignity to camp life. The militarylike color palette of olive greens, golden yellows, and rich browns reinforces the guarded atmosphere but also represents the transitional period from winter to spring, a time ripe with anticipation and promise.

A visually striking, compelling recollection. (author's note, glossary, map.) (Picture book/memoir. 5-9)

Pub Date: Oct. 5, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-5415-8130-2

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Carolrhoda

Review Posted Online: June 29, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2021

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Weirdly fascinating.

THE PIG WAR

HOW A PORCINE TRAGEDY TAUGHT ENGLAND AND AMERICA TO SHARE

“This is a true tale about two mighty nations, an ill-fated pig, and a most unusual war. It is also a story about sharing.”

That opening, in black, sans-serif lettering, is followed by further text that’s broken up by red-inked headings for date, setting, characters, and mood. Continuing a jaunty, lighthearted tone that proceeds throughout the text, it informs readers that the mood is “About to change, for the worse.” The verso sports an antique-looking map of the Western Hemisphere with a detail of San Juan—a Pacific Northwest coast island of, in 1859, ambiguous provenance inhabited both by British employees of the Hudson’s Bay Company and a few American settlers. (The original, Indigenous residents are relegated to a parenthetical mention in the author’s note and figure not at all in the story.) As the story begins, an American named Lyman Cutlar angrily kills Brit Charles Griffin’s pig as it eats from Cutlar’s potato patch. Cutlar apologizes and offers to pay for the pig but then refuses to pay Griffin’s exorbitant asking price. Enter authorities from both nations in an escalation that eventually involves scores of warships. When war seems inevitable, Gen. Winfield Scott is sent by President James Buchanan to mediate. The text is true to its introduction, and it also pursues the idea that hotheadedness leads to disastrous consequences. Vocabulary, verbosity, and content suit this for older elementary, independent readers. The storytelling goes a bit flat at the end, when Cutlar is mentioned but not Griffin. Colorful, stylized art against apparently distressed surfaces is an impeccable complement. (This book was reviewed digitally with 10-by-20-inch double-page spreads viewed at 42.6% of actual size.)

Weirdly fascinating. (photographs, timeline, resources, artist’s note) (Informational picture book. 7-9)

Pub Date: Nov. 10, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-68437-171-6

Page Count: 48

Publisher: Calkins Creek/Boyds Mills

Review Posted Online: Sept. 15, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2020

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