A thoughtful exploration of nature expressed in poetry that should open the eyes of children to unseen worlds.

READ REVIEW

THUNDER UNDERGROUND

Twenty-one poems that center on the uncommon idea of things “underground.”

On the cover, a black girl has her ear to the ground beside the roots of a large tree while a white boy cocks his head and listens. The premise of the collection is to encourage children to explore what is under their feet using imagination and wonder. Poems include a variety of forms from terse haiku to a ballad. Whether playful or serious, each poem honors the ability of young readers to navigate syntax, imagery, and wordplay. “Seeds,” for example, spins a literary conceit: “This dot, / this spot, / this period at the end / of winter’s sentence / writes its way up / through the dull slate of soil / into the paragraph of spring.” Yolen’s treatment of the underground is expansive, exploring natural subjects as well as a cellar, a subway, and the underpinnings of a city, and buried treasures from pirates’ to fossils. Masse’s mixed-media illustrations portray the imaginary points of view with aplomb, placing the same two children from the cover in settings both realistic and fanciful. In the backmatter, Yolen offers discursive notes on each poem, expanding on the science presented and her various inspirations.

A thoughtful exploration of nature expressed in poetry that should open the eyes of children to unseen worlds. (Picture book/poetry. 6-10)

Pub Date: March 28, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-59078-936-0

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Wordsong/Boyds Mills

Review Posted Online: Nov. 23, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2016

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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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A floral fantasia for casual browsers as well as budding botanists.

THE BIG BOOK OF BLOOMS

Spirited illustrations brighten a large-format introduction to flowers and their pollinators.

Showing a less Eurocentric outlook than in his Big Book of Birds (2019), Zommer employs agile brushwork and a fondness for graceful lines and bright colors to bring to life bustling bouquets from a range of habitats, from rainforest to desert. Often switching from horizontal to vertical orientations, the topical spreads progress from overviews of major floral families and broad looks at plant anatomy and reproduction to close-ups of select flora—roses and tulips to Venus flytraps and stinking flowers. The book then closes with a shoutout to the conservators and other workers at Kew Gardens (this is a British import) and quick suggestions for young balcony or windowsill gardeners. In most of the low-angled scenes, fancifully drawn avian or insect pollinators with human eyes hover around all the large, luscious blooms, as do one- or two-sentence comments that generally add cogent observations or insights: “All parts of the deadly nightshade plant contain poison. It has been used to poison famous emperors, kings and warriors throughout history.” (Confusingly for the audience, the accurate but limited assertion that bees “often visit blue or purple flowers” appears to be contradicted by an adjacent view of several zeroing in on a yellow toadflax.) Human figures, or, in one scene, hands, are depicted in a variety of sizes, shapes, and skin colors.

A floral fantasia for casual browsers as well as budding botanists. (glossary, index) (Informational picture book. 7-9)

Pub Date: May 5, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-500-65199-5

Page Count: 64

Publisher: Thames & Hudson

Review Posted Online: March 25, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2020

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