THE DIAMOND AND THE BOY

THE CREATION OF DIAMONDS & THE LIFE OF H. TRACY HALL

Engineer and author Holt’s first picture book introduces “A ROCK / named graphite, / A BOY / named Tracy.”

In two, parallel free-verse narratives, Holt tells the stories of both the creation of natural diamonds and the invention of synthetic diamonds. Versos detail how diamonds are naturally produced and harvested: “Mighty, unyielding, brilliant. / The rock would dazzle if it had / any light to reflect, / but it doesn’t. / A crystal, even a priceless one, / is still only a lump / in the dirt / until it is found.” The recto shares the life of H. Tracy Hall (Holt’s grandfather) from his childhood through his invention of his diamond-producing machine: “Mighty, unyielding, brilliant. / His inventions dazzle classmates. / But Tracy is still penny poor, with so / many ideas floating just out of reach. / … / Even a genius must eat and sleep / before his dreams can be found.” The parallel narrative structure is a compelling one, although occasionally the technique slows the momentum of one or both of the narratives. Illustrator Fleck uses full-bleed spreads of bold colors and simple lines, rendered with pencil and digitally, to effectively emphasize the scope and significance of both creations, cannily varying the palette to emphasize the parallel structure.

A quiet gem. (scientific note, biographical note, timeline, bibliography) (Informational picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: Oct. 2, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-06-265903-3

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Balzer + Bray/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: July 16, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2018

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An auspicious primer on some very big numbers.

A HUNDRED BILLION TRILLION STARS

Huge numbers take on an even bigger scale in Fishman and Greenberg’s insightful, awe-inspiring picture book.

A secret shared between narrator and the reader kicks things off: “The sun is just a star. / And there are (maybe) 100,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 stars.” (Readers will be grateful for the “a hundred billion trillion” printed in the corner.) Stars too many to count, in various sizes and shapes, fill the double-page spread, illustrating the comically large number centered on the page. It’s enough to leave most flabbergasted, but Fishman aims for much more as he zeroes in on one particular blue-and-green planet. Even this celestial orb has its secrets: “Blue because it’s covered by 370,000,000,000,000,000,000 gallons of water. Green because it’s covered in 3,000,000,000,000 trees.” From there it’s all about the (innumerable) details. For example, 10 quadrillion ants may equal 7.5 billion humans in weight (as terrifying as that sounds); meanwhile, 420 million dogs or guitars lined up head to foot circle the Earth about 10 times. The figures aren’t precise, but quibbling over exactness almost misses the point of the book. A constant throughout this excursion, however, is Greenberg’s digital artwork, which features bold, thick lines, vibrant colors and shapes, and a diverse cast of nameless characters. More notable perhaps is the author’s persistent focus on the reader: “There’s only one of YOU.” Such a statement threatens to veer into ham-fisted territory, but here it serves to underline how amazing it is to be the only one.

An auspicious primer on some very big numbers. (author’s note) (Informational picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: Sept. 12, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-06-245578-9

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Greenwillow Books

Review Posted Online: June 19, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2017

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A striking visual representation of how the label “bad reader” can feel.

A WALK IN THE WORDS

A slow reader gains confidence.

Strongly influenced by Talbott’s own childhood reading journey, a young tot with a mop of brown hair and pale skin loves art, but reading doesn’t come as naturally. Crayons and colored pencils create imaginative worlds, but the words on a page crowd together, forming an impenetrable wall, with the youngster barely able to peer over. The rest of the class seemingly soars ahead, turning page after page, but the books (in the protagonist’s mind) give chase, flying menacingly like a scene from Hitchcock: “And they were coming for me! / So many words! So many pages!” Talbott expertly captures the claustrophobic crush of unknown vocabulary, first as a downpour of squiggles from the sky, then as a gnarled, dark forest with words lining the branches. But reading slowly doesn’t mean not reading at all. The youngster learns to search for familiar words, using them as steppingstones. And there are advantages: “Slow readers savor the story!” There is even a “Slow Readers Hall of Fame” included, featuring Albert Einstein, Sojourner Truth, and many others. Talbott excels at evincing concepts visually, and this talent is in evidence here as his protagonist first struggles then gains mastery, surfing confidently down a wave of words. Patience and curiosity (along with some fierce determination) can unlock incredible stories. (This book was reviewed digitally.)

A striking visual representation of how the label “bad reader” can feel. (author's note) (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: Sept. 14, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-399-54871-0

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Nancy Paulsen Books

Review Posted Online: July 14, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2021

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