An unusual and useful curricular choice for today’s students, who frequently learn through infographics.

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LINES, BARS AND CIRCLES

HOW WILLIAM PLAYFAIR INVENTED GRAPHS

The origins of the now-ubiquitous line graph, bar graph, and pie chart are rarely considered. This title introduces the Scotsman who first plotted and promoted these tools for easily communicating complex information.

When the father of William Playfair (1759-1823) died, his brother John took over the young dreamer’s education. John’s scientific training had a lasting influence, according to extensive backmatter, which quotes Playfair: “He taught me to know, that, whatever can be expressed in numbers, may be represented by lines.” (There are no citations, nor a bibliography, although Playfair’s books are mentioned in context.) Becker chronicles a career of dabbling that included apprenticeships with inventors, among them James Watt. She writes clearly with a child audience in mind, highlighting the drama surrounding this economist, entrepreneur, thief, and scoundrel and explaining why graphs did not gain traction in his lifetime: reputation and ideas were inextricably linked, and the prevailing notion was that science was best expressed in numbers and formulas, not frivolous illustrations. Insets summarize the scientific method and the Industrial and French revolutions. Rendered digitally in a predominantly turquoise, blue, and green palette, Tremblay’s caricatures (all white before the book reaches the present day) provide comic relief, as when a dotted line severs Louis XVI’s head. Two graphs and a pie chart are depicted and deconstructed; original versions occur in the author’s note.

An unusual and useful curricular choice for today’s students, who frequently learn through infographics. (Picture book/biography. 6-9)

Pub Date: April 4, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-77138-570-1

Page Count: 36

Publisher: Kids Can

Review Posted Online: Jan. 17, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2017

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In spite of the book’s flaws, dragons are very appealing, and tales for young audiences that model the scientific method are...

DRAGONS AND MARSHMALLOWS

From the Zoey and Sassafras series , Vol. 1

Zoey discovers that she can see magical creatures that might need her help.

That’s a good thing because her mother has been caring for the various beasts since childhood, but now she’s leaving on a business trip so the work will fall to Zoey. Most people (like Zoey’s father) can’t see the magical creatures, so Zoey, who appears in illustrations to be black, will have to experiment with their care by problem-solving using the scientific method to determine appropriate treatment and feeding. When a tiny, sick dragon shows up on her doorstep, she runs an experiment and determines that marshmallows appear to be the proper food. Unfortunately, she hadn’t done enough research beforehand to understand that although dragons might like marshmallows, they might not be the best food for a sick, fire-breathing baby. Although the incorporation of important STEM behaviors is a plus, the exposition is mildly clunky, with little character development and stilted dialogue. Many pages are dense with large-print text, related in Zoey’s not especially childlike voice. However, the inclusion in each chapter of a couple of attractive black-and-white illustrations of round-faced people and Zoey’s mischievous cat helps break up the narrative.

In spite of the book’s flaws, dragons are very appealing, and tales for young audiences that model the scientific method are nice to see. (Fantasy. 6-9)

Pub Date: March 14, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-943147-08-3

Page Count: 96

Publisher: The Innovation Press

Review Posted Online: Dec. 19, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2017

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26 FAIRMOUNT AVENUE

            The legions of fans who over the years have enjoyed dePaola’s autobiographical picture books will welcome this longer gathering of reminiscences.  Writing in an authentically childlike voice, he describes watching the new house his father was building go up despite a succession of disasters, from a brush fire to the hurricane of 1938.  Meanwhile, he also introduces family, friends, and neighbors, adds Nana Fall River to his already well-known Nana Upstairs and Nana Downstairs, remembers his first day of school (“ ‘ When do we learn to read?’  I asked.  ‘Oh, we don’t learn how to read in kindergarten.  We learn to read next year, in first grade.’  ‘Fine,’ I said.  ‘I’ll be back next year.’  And I walked right out of school.”), recalls holidays, and explains his indignation when the plot of Disney’s “Snow White” doesn’t match the story he knows.  Generously illustrated with vignettes and larger scenes, this cheery, well-knit narrative proves that an old dog can learn new tricks, and learn them surpassingly well.  (Autobiography.  7-9)

Pub Date: April 1, 1999

ISBN: 0-399-23246-X

Page Count: 58

Publisher: Putnam

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 1999

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