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From the Oliver's Great Big Universe series , Vol. 1

An irresistibly entertaining introduction to astrophysics.

A stellar confluence of comic episodes and cosmic information.

Robotics Ph.D., author, podcaster, and PBS Kids’ show creator Cham offers a straightforward and amusing guide to the universe through the eyes of a middle schooler. Copious cartoon vignettes and graphics ramp up both the instruction and entertainment. Oliver introduces himself as a normal 11-year-old, not always on task or even paying attention. One day in fifth grade, however, he became enthralled and motivated by space and decided to become an astrophysicist. Dr. Howard, the catalyst and his preternaturally patient ongoing mentor, is the scientist husband of his teacher. Folded into the science (along with groanworthy puns, helpfully indexed fart jokes, and bathroom humor) is a storyline about transitioning to middle school, where, happily, Oliver makes a friend in Evie, an artistic girl he creates planet cartoons with—along with the book we’re reading. In addition to brilliantly integrated comic moments—an escaped hamster, a run-in with the principal, a hypothetical chat with an alien—surprising plot twists add narrative pizzazz to a serious raft of data about the universe. Common experiences, like a road trip, sibling dealmaking, and Halloween scares, will make readers chuckle. Terms are defined in the text. A bonus spread supplies especially jaw-dropping data crumbs that will make a big bang in family dinner conversations. Oliver and his family have paper-white skin and black hair; Dr. Howard and Evie read Black, and Mrs. Howard appears white.

An irresistibly entertaining introduction to astrophysics. (resources, index) (Graphic nonfiction. 8-12)

Pub Date: Sept. 26, 2023

ISBN: 9781419764080

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Amulet/Abrams

Review Posted Online: July 13, 2023

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2023

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Charming, poignant, and thoughtfully woven.

An aspiring scientist and a budding artist become friends and help each other with dream projects.

Unfolding in mid-1980s Sacramento, California, this story stars 12-year-olds Rosalind and Benjamin as first-person narrators in alternating chapters. Ro’s father, a fellow space buff, was killed by a drunk driver; the rocket they were working on together lies unfinished in her closet. As for Benji, not only has his best friend, Amir, moved away, but the comic book holding the clue for locating his dad is also missing. Along with their profound personal losses, the protagonists share a fixation with the universe’s intriguing potential: Ro decides to complete the rocket and hopes to launch mementos of her father into outer space while Benji’s conviction that aliens and UFOs are real compels his imagination and creativity as an artist. An accident in science class triggers a chain of events forcing Benji and Ro, who is new to the school, to interact and unintentionally learn each other’s secrets. They resolve to find Benji’s dad—a famous comic-book artist—and partner to finish Ro’s rocket for the science fair. Together, they overcome technical, scheduling, and geographical challenges. Readers will be drawn in by amusing and fantastical elements in the comic book theme, high emotional stakes that arouse sympathy, and well-drawn character development as the protagonists navigate life lessons around grief, patience, self-advocacy, and standing up for others. Ro is biracial (Chinese/White); Benji is White.

Charming, poignant, and thoughtfully woven. (Fiction. 9-12)

Pub Date: Jan. 12, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-06-300888-5

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Quill Tree Books/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Oct. 26, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2020

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Superbly written and illustrated; keeps readers breathless and guessing until the end.

A 22nd-century picaresque with nefarious characters, chosen family, unavoidable camping, and lifesaving butterflies.

It’s 2101, and most mammals have died from sun exposure—a fate the few remaining humans suffer if they don’t live underground as Deepers. Some Deepers are friendly; others will take what they can get by any means necessary. Since Elvie’s parents departed for Michoacán, Mexico, 8 years earlier in search of more monarch butterflies, ran into danger, and have not returned, 10-year-old Black science whiz Elvie has been cared for by her guardian, Flora, a White scientist. Flora and Elvie hope to make a vaccine that enables humans to tolerate sunlight. They struggle to find food, and Flora’s awful cooking sometimes makes their foraged food inedible. Elvie’s journals, which contain her homework, science notes, and sketches, trace their journey—including tracking their latitude and longitude daily—as they follow the amazing migration path of the monarchs, whose young have the ingredient necessary for making both the sun sickness antidote and the vaccine. The eclecticism of Case’s lively visuals in this riveting graphic novel will keep readers both enthralled and learning. The book teaches some astronomy, botany, biology, entomology, animal science, knot tying, and more. Elvie’s special relationship with Flora, along with her quick wit, scientific knowledge, and careful observation skills, makes her a character worth following. Yet she’s all kid—and one who badly wants to be reunited with her parents.

Superbly written and illustrated; keeps readers breathless and guessing until the end. (author's note) (Graphic fiction. 8-12)

Pub Date: April 5, 2022

ISBN: 978-0-8234-4260-7

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Margaret Ferguson/Holiday House

Review Posted Online: Jan. 25, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2022

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