Despite weaknesses, this account of triumph over adversity may successfully ignite the same drive in other kids.

FROM FARMWORKER TO ASTRONAUT / DE CAMPESINO A ASTRONAUTA

MY PATH TO THE STARS / MI VIAJE A LAS ESTRELLAS

Hernández’s amazing journey from toiling in a field of cucumbers to floating among a field of stars is a powerful tale of perseverance.

After 10-year-old José announces his intention to explore space one day, his Mexican-born father sits him down and gives him the formula he will need to achieve his goal. As Hernández plows through obstacle after obstacle, from learning to speak English to attending university classes on only three hours of sleep after working eight-hour shifts in a cannery, his father’s lessons keep him going. When NASA accepts his 12th application, the former farmworker finally realizes his life’s dream of becoming an astronaut. In marked contrast to his stellar picture-book account, The Boy Who Touched the Stars / El Niño Que Alcanzó las Estrellas (2019), Hernández’s middle-grade autobiography is a mixed bag of dense technological jargon and inspiring personal triumphs. Readers must persist through the entire first chapter, which reads like a science blog, before getting a glimpse of the child who would become an American hero. Instead of ending his incredible story with the words of encouragement that “You’re never too old to dream, let alone make those dreams a reality,” he meanders along for another three pages, the final paragraph falling flat with philosophical musings.

Despite weaknesses, this account of triumph over adversity may successfully ignite the same drive in other kids. (glossary, diagrams, photos) (Memoir. 10-16)

Pub Date: Oct. 31, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-55885-868-8

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Piñata Books/Arte Público

Review Posted Online: Sept. 15, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2019

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A breezy, bustling bucketful of courageous acts and eye-popping feats.

50 IMPRESSIVE KIDS AND THEIR AMAZING (AND TRUE!) STORIES

From the They Did What? series

Why should grown-ups get all the historical, scientific, athletic, cinematic, and artistic glory?

Choosing exemplars from both past and present, Mitchell includes but goes well beyond Alexander the Great, Anne Frank, and like usual suspects to introduce a host of lesser-known luminaries. These include Shapur II, who was formally crowned king of Persia before he was born, Indian dancer/professional architect Sheila Sri Prakash, transgender spokesperson Jazz Jennings, inventor Param Jaggi, and an international host of other teen or preteen activists and prodigies. The individual portraits range from one paragraph to several pages in length, and they are interspersed with group tributes to, for instance, the Nazi-resisting “Swingkinder,” the striking New York City newsboys, and the marchers of the Birmingham Children’s Crusade. Mitchell even offers would-be villains a role model in Elagabalus, “boy emperor of Rome,” though she notes that he, at least, came to an awful end: “Then, then! They dumped his remains in the Tiber River, to be nommed by fish for all eternity.” The entries are arranged in no evident order, and though the backmatter includes multiple booklists, a personality quiz, a glossary, and even a quick Braille primer (with Braille jokes to decode), there is no index. Still, for readers whose fires need lighting, there’s motivational kindling on nearly every page.

A breezy, bustling bucketful of courageous acts and eye-popping feats. (finished illustrations not seen) (Collective biography. 10-13)

Pub Date: May 10, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-14-751813-2

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Puffin

Review Posted Online: Nov. 11, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2015

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Wordplay and wry wit put extra fun into a trove of fundamental knowledge.

BILL NYE'S GREAT BIG WORLD OF SCIENCE

With an amped-up sense of wonder, the Science Guy surveys the natural universe.

Starting from first principles like the scientific method, Nye and his co-author marvel at the “Amazing Machine” that is the human body then go on to talk up animals, plants, evolution, physics and chemistry, the quantum realm, geophysics, and climate change. They next venture out into the solar system and beyond. Along with tallying select aspects and discoveries in each chapter, the authors gather up “Massively Important” central concepts, send shoutouts to underrecognized women scientists like oceanographer Marie Tharp, and slip in directions for homespun experiments and demonstrations. They also challenge readers to ponder still-unsolved scientific posers and intersperse rousing quotes from working scientists about how exciting and wide open their respective fields are. If a few of those fields, like the fungal kingdom, get short shrift (one spare paragraph notwithstanding), readers are urged often enough to go look things up for themselves to kindle a compensatory habit. Aside from posed photos of Nye and a few more of children (mostly presenting as White) doing science-y things, the full-color graphic and photographic images not only reflect the overall “get this!” tone but consistently enrich the flow of facts and reflections. “Our universe is a strange and surprising place,” Nye writes. “Stay curious.” Words to live by.

Wordplay and wry wit put extra fun into a trove of fundamental knowledge. (contributors, art credits, selected bibliography, index) (Nonfiction. 11-15)

Pub Date: Oct. 27, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-4197-4676-5

Page Count: 264

Publisher: Abrams

Review Posted Online: Aug. 25, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2020

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