In a spare text, this Japanese import explores the functions, properties, and inherent contradictions of water.

Two small humans leave home and set out in a rowboat. Water, reads the narration of this follow-up to Every Color of Light (2020), is “only oxygen and hydrogen, simple as can be,” yet it sustains life. This statement is accompanied by a full-bleed spread in which readers see the two humans row along a wave of stars next to the Earth. Water, however, is also paradoxical in nature: “It has no color, but can be any color,” for instance. It has no shape but can take on various shapes, and you can touch it but not actually hold it. The musings are sometimes metaphorical (“like the mother of us all, it creates life”) and often ethereal. In a dramatic shift in tone, the narration then states: “It is the pee of life.” Here, the voice, which has hitherto spoken of you and we, shifts to a first-person-singular one, and the narrator acknowledges a child asking if water is the “pee-pee of the gods.” (This will undoubtedly delight the youngest of readers.) Dense textures, a palette with a stunning use of light, and panoramic landscapes establish a sweeping, grandiose tone that pays its respects to Mother Nature. Resplendent yellows and rich shades of blues and greens are the stars of the show. The book closes on a metafictive note: After referencing the child who asks about gods, the narrator states on the final page: “And then, I wrote this poem.” (This book was reviewed digitally.)

Wondrous. (Picture book. 4-10)

Pub Date: Oct. 26, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-59270-357-9

Page Count: 44

Publisher: Enchanted Lion Books

Review Posted Online: June 28, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2021


A gleeful game for budding naturalists.

Artfully cropped animal portraits challenge viewers to guess which end they’re seeing.

In what will be a crowd-pleasing and inevitably raucous guessing game, a series of close-up stock photos invite children to call out one of the titular alternatives. A page turn reveals answers and basic facts about each creature backed up by more of the latter in a closing map and table. Some of the posers, like the tail of an okapi or the nose on a proboscis monkey, are easy enough to guess—but the moist nose on a star-nosed mole really does look like an anus, and the false “eyes” on the hind ends of a Cuyaba dwarf frog and a Promethea moth caterpillar will fool many. Better yet, Lavelle saves a kicker for the finale with a glimpse of a small parasitical pearlfish peeking out of a sea cucumber’s rear so that the answer is actually face and butt. “Animal identification can be tricky!” she concludes, noting that many of the features here function as defenses against attack: “In the animal world, sometimes your butt will save your face and your face just might save your butt!” (This book was reviewed digitally.)

A gleeful game for budding naturalists. (author’s note) (Informational picture book. 6-8)

Pub Date: July 11, 2023

ISBN: 9781728271170

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Sourcebooks eXplore

Review Posted Online: May 9, 2023

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2023


Erupt into applause for this picture book of the first magma-tude.

A deceptively simple, visually appealing, comprehensive explanation of volcanoes.

Gibbons packs an impressive number of facts into this browsable nonfiction picture book. The text begins with the awe of a volcanic eruption: “The ground begins to rumble…ash, hot lava and rock, and gases shoot up into the air.” Diagrams of the Earth’s structural layers—inner and outer core, mantle, and crust—undergird a discussion about why volcanoes occur. Simple maps of the Earth’s seven major tectonic plates show where volcanoes are likeliest to develop. Other spreads with bright, clearly labeled illustrations cover intriguing subtopics: four types of volcanoes and how they erupt; underwater volcanoes; well-known volcanoes and historic volcanic eruptions around the world; how to be safe in the vicinity of a volcano; and the work of scientists studying volcanoes and helping to predict eruptions. A page of eight facts about volcanoes wraps things up. The straightforward, concise prose will be easy for young readers to follow. As always, Gibbons manages to present a great deal of information in a compact form.

Erupt into applause for this picture book of the first magma-tude. (Nonfiction picture book. 4-9)

Pub Date: Jan. 4, 2022

ISBN: 978-0-8234-4569-1

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Holiday House

Review Posted Online: Nov. 15, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2021

Close Quickview