Sketchy but not (quite) as bland as it seems.



From the Turn and Learn series

An overview of weather and its causes, with pull-tab scenes that switch back and forth.

In neatly squared-off bursts of facts and general observations the survey opens with a look at the sun’s origin and effects. On successive thematic spreads it then introduces rain, wind, snow and ice, and finally thunder and lightning. Along with being a bit vague on the difference between weather and climate, Otter frequently oversimplifies—claiming, for instance, on the same leaf that a lightning bolt “travels downward” and that negative atmospheric charges anthropomorphically “search for” and “sense” positive ones. She does offer at least basic references to weather norms and extremes, spiced with specific temperature and wind speed records or other statistics, plus brief explanations of important concepts such as the water cycle, acid rain, and even the “Goldilocks Zone.” Tolson goes for stylized nature scenes in her simple cartoon pictures; some of the rare, small human figures seem to have dark skin. The front cover and each verso feature a larger illustration that is transformed by the pull of a ribbon…usually in an innocuous change from, for example, daytime to night, but in one disquieting instance showing a tornado-threatened family packing up a car that is next seen flying through the air.

Sketchy but not (quite) as bland as it seems. (Informational novelty. 6-8)

Pub Date: June 1, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-61067-897-1

Page Count: 10

Publisher: Kane Miller

Review Posted Online: April 28, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2019

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More-conventional versions will be more likely to keep readers hooked.


An old Irish tale retold, featuring a renowned poet/teacher, a young warrior-in-training, and a very special fish.

It all begins when a salmon eats nine windfallen hazelnuts, thus acquiring “all the knowledge and secrets of the world.” Knowing that one taste of the salmon will transmit all that, “wise poet” Finnegas sets to fishing, eventually catches it, and orders his student Fionn to cook it without taking a single bite—only to be disappointed when Fionn burns himself on a drop of fat and reflexively puts his thumb in his mouth. Buckley offers a decidedly offbeat rendition of this popular tale, with dinosaur skeletons in one of her naïve-style collage scenes and a droll set of goals for warrior training that includes running beneath a knee-high branch. She also places Finnegas, in essence a bit player, in the forefront of a legend that’s really (and with stronger logic) been about the great hero Finn McCool since its earliest recorded versions. Unfortunately, the author seems to lose both interest and attention at the end. Following his climactic letdown (which is marred by a typo), Finnegas just drops abruptly out of view. Even a closing line about how the story’s now told far and wide dubs it only “Fionn and the Salmon of Knowledge.” There is no source note.

More-conventional versions will be more likely to keep readers hooked. (Picture book/folktale. 6-8)

Pub Date: April 1, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-76036-070-2

Page Count: 36

Publisher: Starfish Bay

Review Posted Online: Feb. 13, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2019

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While the illustrations are often flawed and feel outdated, their overall boldness and simplicity make for a nice book of...


French illustrator Grée’s colorful and iconic images are put front and center alongside facts on nature, animals, transportation, and space in this encyclopedia for young readers.

This book walks through a young child’s world from the basics of plants, foods, and animals to human-made homes and modes of transportation. The illustrations are the focus, with bold, themed double-page spreads and colorful, lifelike images. Some pages are so picture-focused that they include next to no text, while others—such as the two pages on animal skills and survival—strike a nice balance of image and description. There are some useful diagrams, e.g., those that outline the life cycle of a butterfly and where gasoline comes from. By contrast, there are some that confuse, such as a cross section of a house that has a detailed bathroom with no toilet and is missing the accouterments of a 21st-century home (it’s got a TV antenna!). While for the most part people are inclusively illustrated, one spread of watercraft draws heavily and cringeworthily on stereotype in its depictions of Indigenous people paddling, respectively, a canoe, a kayak, and a raft. While this is a nice book of labeled pictures, an “encyclopedia” it is not, often raising more questions than it answers: What’s a queen ant or a hydroelectric power station? The index cross-references some items but not all.

While the illustrations are often flawed and feel outdated, their overall boldness and simplicity make for a nice book of pictures—but not a meaningful or useful encyclopedia. (Nonfiction. 6-8)

Pub Date: April 3, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-908985-97-2

Page Count: 80

Publisher: Button Books

Review Posted Online: Feb. 3, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2018

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