An inventive look at a pioneering woman whose intellectual passions culminated in published works of beauty and scientific...

THE BLUEST OF BLUES

ANNA ATKINS AND THE FIRST BOOK OF PHOTOGRAPHS

Robinson examines the life of Anna Atkins, whose childhood love of the natural world propelled a unique career.

Born in England in 1799, Anna was raised by her scientist father after her mother’s death. Father abets Anna’s fascination with nature, fostering her scientific education. She becomes a botanist, collecting, cataloging, and illustrating British flora. The pair moves to London, where Father works at the British Museum. Anna marries John Pelly Atkins and continues work on her pressed-plant herbarium. Father’s retirement occasions the family’s return to the Kent countryside, where father and daughter explore their mutual zeal for a new technology: photography. Introduced to the cyanotype, whose chemical reaction produces permanent images, Anna harnesses the technique to share her botanical collections, producing several books under the demure nom de plume “A.A.” As little is known of Anna’s early life, Robinson’s present-tense narrative imagines childhood scenes. Historical context highlights the British mania for worldwide plant collection (but does not connect it to imperialism) and the sexist constraints on women and girls pursuing career paths. Illustrations utilize the cyanotype’s distinctive blue and white, with touches of red and yellow. A note details Robinson’s process, including digital manipulation of Atkins’ cyanotypes. (Other backmatter includes an author’s note, cyanotype instructions, bibliography, resources for Atkins’ works, and illustration credits.) The effete, white-skinned figural depictions, which infantilize the adult Atkins, detract from the otherwise handsomely designed package.

An inventive look at a pioneering woman whose intellectual passions culminated in published works of beauty and scientific verisimilitude. (Picture book/biography. 6-9)

Pub Date: Feb. 12, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-4197-2551-7

Page Count: 48

Publisher: Abrams

Review Posted Online: Oct. 15, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2018

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

THE BRAIN IS KIND OF A BIG DEAL

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 23, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2019

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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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