Nourishing fare for readers with a burning need to know.



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 30, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2021

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The story feels a bit contrived, but Ada will be a welcome addition to the small circle of science-loving girls in the...


From the Ada Lace series , Vol. 1

Using science and technology, third-grader Ada Lace kicks off her new series by solving a mystery even with her leg in a cast.

Temporarily housebound after a badly executed bungee jump, Ada uses binoculars to document the ecosystem of her new neighborhood in San Francisco. She records her observations in a field journal, a project that intrigues new friend Nina, who lives nearby. When they see that Ms. Reed’s dog, Marguerite, is missing, they leap to the conclusion that it has been stolen. Nina does the legwork and Ada provides the technology for their search for the dognapper. Story-crafting takes a back seat to scene-setting in this series kickoff that introduces the major players. As part of the series formula, science topics and gadgetry are integrated into the stories and further explained in a “Behind the Science” afterword. This installment incorporates drones, a wireless camera, gecko gloves, and the Turing test as well as the concept of an ecosystem. There are no ethnic indicators in the text, but the illustrations reveal that Ada, her family, and bratty neighbor Milton are white; Nina appears to be Southeast Asian; and Mr. Peebles, an inventor who lives nearby, is black.

The story feels a bit contrived, but Ada will be a welcome addition to the small circle of science-loving girls in the chapter-book world. (Fiction. 7-9)

Pub Date: Aug. 29, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-4814-8599-9

Page Count: 128

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: May 23, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2017

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A bubble-gum crowd pleaser with wide audience appeal.


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. 13, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2017

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