Nourishing fare for readers with a burning need to know.

CAN YOU HEAR A PENGUIN FART ON MARS?

AND OTHER EXCELLENT QUESTIONS

From the Jop and Blip Wanna Know series , Vol. 1

Two robots discuss some of life’s big questions.

There’s as much going on between the lines here as in them. Big Jop’s response to little Blip’s titular penguin query—“I’ve never heard a better question about one”—demonstrates the respect that any and every query from a child merits, and the two go on to consider logically what it would take to get a penguin (for instance) to Mars. Following this, the two chew over a range of topics, including the origin of sandwiches, why we have two nostrils, the epistemological implications of a belief in dragons, and the story of the blind men and the elephant. (Jop: “You can be kind of right about something…and kind of wrong about something at the same time.”) It all serves to underscore the notion that even—or perhaps especially—silly questions are always worth asking. Benton presents this profound exchange in plain language and panels of deceptively simple cartoon depictions of, say, guts (funny as well as relevant!) and comically overdone reaction shots. Jop and Blip vaguely resemble popeyed versions of C-3PO and R2-D2, and if the three blind, white-bearded men are identical except for having pink, brown, and yellow skin, the other human figures throughout generally vary in features as well as skin tone. An activity page closes each chapter (one is a maze that challenges readers to trace a hot dog through the digestive tract of a penguin).

Nourishing fare for readers with a burning need to know. (Graphic nonfiction. 7-10)

Pub Date: June 29, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-06-297292-7

Page Count: 96

Publisher: HarperAlley

Review Posted Online: March 31, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2021

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A bubble-gum crowd pleaser with wide audience appeal.

OLGA AND THE SMELLY THING FROM NOWHERE

From the Olga series , Vol. 1

A young girl who prefers science to people discovers an adorable and smelly little creature.

With an inquisitive mind and a dark teardrop-shaped swoop of hair, Olga may not have many friends, but she loves animals and thinks even their "farts are cute." She studies them and carefully transcribes her observations; she hopes someday to hang out with Jane Goodall. When she hears a scary rumble in her trash can, Olga discovers Meh, a pudgy, smelly creature that she describes as a "cross between an inflated hamster and a potato drawn by a three-year-old." Like any good scientist-in-training, she observes Meh, trying to discern his habits and his diet. When Meh goes missing, Olga must recruit actual people to help her find him—including two pop-star–obsessed girls she calls "The Lalas," a friendly boy with a tall scribble of hair and an incontinent dog, a punk-rock librarian, and a goofy but helpful shopkeeper. Gravel's tale is a visually interesting mix of illustration and story, punctuated by numerous lists, comic panels, and cartoon diagrams and led by a smart female protagonist. Covering everything from zoology to poop jokes, Gravel has painted her tale with a broad brush that should render this an easy sell to most young readers. The human characters all have paper-white skin, and there is no other cueing of racial difference.

A bubble-gum crowd pleaser with wide audience appeal. (Graphic/fiction hybrid. 7-10)

Pub Date: March 14, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-06-235126-5

Page Count: 176

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Dec. 14, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2017

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A launch-pad fizzle.

THE ULTIMATE BOOK OF SPACE

Flaps and pull-tabs in assorted astro-scenes reveal several wonders of the universe as well as inside glimpses of observatories, rockets, a space suit, and the International Space Station.

Interactive features include a spinnable Milky Way, pop-up launches of Ariane and Soyuz rockets, a solar-system tour, visits to the surfaces of the moon and Mars, and cutaway views beneath long, thin flaps of an international array of launch vehicles. Despite these bells and whistles, this import is far from ready for liftoff. Not only has Antarctica somehow gone missing from the pop-up globe, but Baumann’s commentary (at least in Booker’s translation from the French original) shows more enthusiasm than strict attention to accuracy. Both Mercury and Venus are designated “hottest planet” (right answer: Venus); claims that there is no gravity in space and that black holes are a type of star are at best simplistic; and “we do not know what [other galaxies] actually look like” is nonsensical. Moreover, in a clumsy attempt to diversify the cast on a spread about astronaut training, Latyk gives an (evidently) Asian figure caricatured slit eyes and yellow skin.

A launch-pad fizzle. (Informational pop-up picture book. 7-9)

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 2016

ISBN: 979-1-02760-197-4

Page Count: 24

Publisher: Chronicle Books

Review Posted Online: Aug. 30, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2016

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