Art meets biology, with weird and beautiful results.

STRANGE NATURE

THE INSECT PORTRAITS OF LEVON BISS

An elaborate photographic process that brings out every bizarre detail and shimmering nuance of color turns 14 insects into lambent “miniature monsters."

Culled from the photographer’s book for adults Microsculpture (2017), the photos of the preserved specimens could just as well have been chosen as much for their subjects’ names—branch-backed treehopper, splendid-necked dung beetle, orchid cuckoo bee—as for their fantastically baroque features and oily hues. The original portraits, stitched together from thousands of photos and blown up to 10 feet (tall or wide, depending on orientation) for a traveling museum exhibit, must be jaw-dropping. Even here they seem to glimmer with thrillingly menacing, heavily armored elegance on their solid black pages, undisturbed by the labeled side views and details that accompany them. Along with describing Biss’ process and marveling at the sheer numberof insect species in the world, Mone offers succinct observations about each selection’s features and habits, tucks in a mini-disquisition on insect setae (“hair-like bits”), and tries (a little too hard) to lighten the mood: “If [potter wasp males] were human dads, they’d probably just sit around watching football and belching.” His suggestion to dazzled readers that after viewing these “fast, creepy, sneaky, smart, and sometimes a little nasty” creatures “you’ll never look at the insects in your backyard the same way again” is well taken, though. (This book was reviewed digitally with 10-by-20-inch double-page spreads viewed at 75% of actual size.)

Art meets biology, with weird and beautiful results. (glossary) (Informational picture book. 7-10)

Pub Date: March 23, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-4197-3166-2

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Abrams

Review Posted Online: Dec. 25, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2021

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Friends of these pollinators will be best served elsewhere.

1001 BEES

This book is buzzing with trivia.

Follow a swarm of bees as they leave a beekeeper’s apiary in search of a new home. As the scout bees traverse the fields, readers are provided with a potpourri of facts and statements about bees. The information is scattered—much like the scout bees—and as a result, both the nominal plot and informational content are tissue-thin. There are some interesting facts throughout the book, but many pieces of trivia are too, well trivial, to prove useful. For example, as the bees travel, readers learn that “onion flowers are round and fluffy” and “fennel is a plant that is used in cooking.” Other facts are oversimplified and as a result are not accurate. For example, monofloral honey is defined as “made by bees who visit just one kind of flower” with no acknowledgment of the fact that bees may range widely, and swarm activity is described as a springtime event, when it can also occur in summer and early fall. The information in the book, such as species identification and measurement units, is directed toward British readers. The flat, thin-lined artwork does little to enhance the story, but an “I spy” game challenging readers to find a specific bee throughout is amusing.

Friends of these pollinators will be best served elsewhere. (Informational picture book. 8-10)

Pub Date: May 18, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-500-65265-7

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Thames & Hudson

Review Posted Online: April 14, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2021

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An immersive dunk into a vast subject—and on course for shorter attention spans.

EVERYTHING AWESOME ABOUT SHARKS AND OTHER UNDERWATER CREATURES!

From the Everything Awesome About… series

In the wake of Everything Awesome About Dinosaurs and Other Prehistoric Beasts! (2019), Lowery spins out likewise frothy arrays of facts and observations about sharks, whales, giant squid, and smaller but no less extreme (or at least extremely interesting) sea life.

He provides plenty of value-added features, from overviews of oceanic zones and environments to jokes, drawing instructions, and portrait galleries suitable for copying or review. While not one to pass up any opportunity to, for instance, characterize ambergris as “whale vomit perfume” or the clownfish’s protective coating as “snot armor,” he also systematically introduces members of each of the eight orders of sharks, devotes most of a page to the shark’s electroreceptive ampullae of Lorenzini, and even sheds light on the unobvious differences between jellyfish and the Portuguese man-of-war or the reason why the blue octopus is said to have “arms” rather than “tentacles.” He also argues persuasively that sharks have gotten a bad rap (claiming that more people are killed each year by…vending machines) and closes with pleas to be concerned about plastic waste, to get involved in conservation efforts, and (cannily) to get out and explore our planet because (quoting Jacques-Yves Cousteau) “People protect what they love.” Human figures, some with brown skin, pop up occasionally to comment in the saturated color illustrations. (This book was reviewed digitally with 10-by-17-inch double-page spreads viewed at 45% of actual size.)

An immersive dunk into a vast subject—and on course for shorter attention spans. (bibliography, list of organizations) (Nonfiction. 7-10)

Pub Date: Oct. 6, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-338-35973-2

Page Count: 128

Publisher: Orchard/Scholastic

Review Posted Online: June 30, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2020

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