A rib-tickling gallery, anything but dry.



The inside stories on 10 creatures who can lay claim to bone-y extremes.

Framed as a “Who am I?” guessing game, the illustrations alternate simplified white skeletons on solid black backgrounds on rectos with, on those pages’ versos, painted views of the fleshed-out creatures featuring invisible but raised bones that can be felt. In accompanying clues and narratives in the voices of the creatures, Balkan makes much use of colorful comparisons and atypical but revealing units of measure: “Not counting my tail,” the Etruscan shrew (smallest bones) notes, “my SKELETON is the size of a paperclip and weighs less than a single raisin!” Likewise, thanks to having the largest mandible (i.e., bone of any sort), a blue whale boasts “I could fit one hundred of your friends on my tongue.” (“But don’t worry. I don’t eat humans.”) The author makes no bones about playing fast and loose with the premise, admitting that some “records” are speculative—which bird has the lightest bones? “Let’s not quibble,” responds the peregrine falcon—and slipping in a moot claim that the hammerhead shark has the “fewest bones” because its skeleton isn’t bone at all but cartilage. Still, as she points out at beginning and end, all of the bones here have human equivalents, and that connection should give both casual browsers and budding naturalists plenty to gnaw on.

A rib-tickling gallery, anything but dry. (bibliography) (Informational picture book. 6-8)

Pub Date: Sept. 18, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-7148-7512-5

Page Count: 48

Publisher: Phaidon

Review Posted Online: Aug. 21, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2017

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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 23, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2019

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A winning heads up for younger readers just becoming aware of the wider natural world.


An appeal to share concern for 12 familiar but threatened, endangered, or critically endangered animal species.

The subjects of Marino’s intimate, close-up portraits—fairly naturalistically rendered, though most are also smiling, glancing up at viewers through human eyes, and posed at rest with a cute youngling on lap or flank—steal the show. Still, Clinton’s accompanying tally of facts about each one’s habitat and daily routines, to which the title serves as an ongoing refrain, adds refreshingly unsentimental notes: “A single giraffe kick can kill a lion!”; “[S]hivers of whale sharks can sense a drop of blood if it’s in the water nearby, though they eat mainly plankton.” Along with tucking in collective nouns for each animal (some not likely to be found in major, or any, dictionaries: an “embarrassment” of giant pandas?), the author systematically cites geographical range, endangered status, and assumed reasons for that status, such as pollution, poaching, or environmental change. She also explains the specific meaning of “endangered” and some of its causes before closing with a set of doable activities (all uncontroversial aside from the suggestion to support and visit zoos) and a list of international animal days to celebrate.

A winning heads up for younger readers just becoming aware of the wider natural world. (Informational picture book. 6-8)

Pub Date: April 2, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-525-51432-9

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Philomel

Review Posted Online: Jan. 28, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2019

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