As gorgeous as it is informative.

LISTENING TO THE STARS

JOCELYN BELL BURNELL DISCOVERS PULSARS

From the She Made History series

An Irishwoman and a radio telescope change astronomy forever.

“Does the galaxy have a sound?” asks the first line of this elegant biography. “Is it loud and full of thunderous booms? Soft murmurings, whooshing whispers?” Though written in prose, the narrative has a poetic sensibility, building a suspenseful read-aloud from the events of Burnell’s life. First having to fight her way into “the boys’ class” in the 1950s so she could learn physics, then later working to mount acres upon acres of wires to help construct a telescope, the young Jocelyn depicted exudes curiosity and enthusiasm. A showstopper of a spread celebrates the radio telescope’s 1967 completion: Precise technical lines appear in silhouette against a dusky, ethereal sky. Text and pictures work together to explain how a pulsing sound wave comes from a neutron star—a discovery that Burnell made after analyzing “three miles of paper.” Well-chosen similes illuminate fundamental concepts, backed by Badiu’s rich, celestial blues and purples. Frank discussion of the sexism Burnell faced leads into a hopeful note about her efforts to support young women in astronomy. Backmatter provides plain-language scientific definitions, a contextualizing author’s note, and recommended reading on women in physics. Burnell is depicted as White, all of her colleagues and mentors appear to be White men, and just one of her students (circa 1974) has brown skin.

As gorgeous as it is informative. (glossary, author’s note, recommended reading) (Picture book/biography. 4-10)

Pub Date: April 1, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-8075-4563-8

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Whitman

Review Posted Online: Feb. 9, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2021

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Despite minor bumps, a ride that’s worth returning to.

HOW TO CODE A ROLLERCOASTER

Pearl and her robot, Pascal, take their coding skills for a spin at the amusement park in this Girls Who Code picture book, a follow-up to How To Code a Sandcastle (2018).

The park has many rides to choose from, and Pearl has 10 tokens to last her the day. But her favorite ride, the Python roller coaster, looks busy. Pearl decides to do something else fun, using code concepts such as variables to keep track of the length of the line and her remaining tokens and a conditional statement to decide when to return to the Python. Throughout, computer science terms are defined crisply in the text and vividly illustrated in the pictures, which use images such as popcorn bags for variables and the Ferris wheel for loops (keeping track of ice cream flavors seems somewhat contrived). The backmatter explains these ideas more fully. Pascal’s too-literal interpretations of Pearl’s statements make for several amusing moments along the way. When Pearl runs short of tokens (a missed opportunity to talk about checking for more than one condition?), she’s undaunted by the disaster, taking readers on a fun hunt for a secret hidden password, in a nod to the importance of proper sequencing. Pearl has brown skin and black curls; others at the park have a variety of skin tones.

Despite minor bumps, a ride that’s worth returning to. (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: Sept. 24, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-425-29203-7

Page Count: 44

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: June 23, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2019

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An immersive dunk into a vast subject—and on course for shorter attention spans.

EVERYTHING AWESOME ABOUT SHARKS AND OTHER UNDERWATER CREATURES!

In the wake of Everything Awesome About Dinosaurs and Other Prehistoric Beasts! (2019), Lowery spins out likewise frothy arrays of facts and observations about sharks, whales, giant squid, and smaller but no less extreme (or at least extremely interesting) sea life.

He provides plenty of value-added features, from overviews of oceanic zones and environments to jokes, drawing instructions, and portrait galleries suitable for copying or review. While not one to pass up any opportunity to, for instance, characterize ambergris as “whale vomit perfume” or the clownfish’s protective coating as “snot armor,” he also systematically introduces members of each of the eight orders of sharks, devotes most of a page to the shark’s electroreceptive ampullae of Lorenzini, and even sheds light on the unobvious differences between jellyfish and the Portuguese man-of-war or the reason why the blue octopus is said to have “arms” rather than “tentacles.” He also argues persuasively that sharks have gotten a bad rap (claiming that more people are killed each year by…vending machines) and closes with pleas to be concerned about plastic waste, to get involved in conservation efforts, and (cannily) to get out and explore our planet because (quoting Jacques-Yves Cousteau) “People protect what they love.” Human figures, some with brown skin, pop up occasionally to comment in the saturated color illustrations. (This book was reviewed digitally with 10-by-17-inch double-page spreads viewed at 45% of actual size.)

An immersive dunk into a vast subject—and on course for shorter attention spans. (bibliography, list of organizations) (Nonfiction. 7-10)

Pub Date: Oct. 6, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-338-35973-2

Page Count: 128

Publisher: Orchard/Scholastic

Review Posted Online: June 30, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2020

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