Inspiring for all those kids who look at the world in wonder and ask, what if? (Informational picture book. 5-11)

NATURE DID IT FIRST

ENGINEERING THROUGH BIOMIMICRY

An introduction to biomimicry and engineering for young readers learning to see connections.

The format of the book follows a predictable pattern. One double-page spread with a rhyming poem describes something in nature (“The kingfisher sits upon a perch / And spies a silvery flash. / He swiftly dives to catch a fish / But barely makes a splash”) and is followed by a second spread that examines the animal or plant in more depth, with an explanation about how engineers adapted what they observed to solve a problem: Changing the noses of Japanese bullet trains to match kingfishers’ streamlined beaks meant they wouldn’t boom loudly when exiting tunnels. After a walk with his dog, George de Mestral wondered how burrs stuck to fur. He saw their tiny, curved hooks under a microscope, and Velcro was born. Bats’ echolocation led to the design of a cane with a vibrating handle to help blind people navigate. Other natural inspirations include geckos’ sticky feet, whales’ bumpy flippers, pitcher plants’ slippery sides, and pill bugs’ rolling up. DiRubbio’s watercolors match the text. The first spread shows the animal or plant in its environment. The second uses vignettes to enhance the text’s explanation as well as engineering drawings emphasizing the appropriate aspect. Backmatter includes a short glossary and a design challenge meant for teachers to use with students.

Inspiring for all those kids who look at the world in wonder and ask, what if? (Informational picture book. 5-11)

Pub Date: March 1, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-58469-658-2

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Dawn Publications

Review Posted Online: Dec. 8, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2020

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A good overview of this complex, essential organ, with an energetic seasoning of silliness.

THE BRAIN IS KIND OF A BIG DEAL

An introduction to the lead guitar and vocalist for the Brainiacs—the human brain.

The brain (familiar to readers of Seluk’s “The Awkward Yeti” webcomic, which spun off the adult title Heart and Brain, 2015) looks like a dodgeball with arms and legs—pinkish, sturdy, and roundish, with a pair of square-framed spectacles bestowing an air of importance and hipness. Other organs of the body—tongue, lungs, stomach, muscle, and heart—are featured as members of the brain’s rock band (the verso of the dust jacket is a poster of the band). Seluk’s breezy, conversational prose and brightly colored, boldly outlined cartoon illustrations deliver basic information. The brain’s role in keeping the heart beating and other automatic functions, directing body movements, interpreting sights and sounds, remembering smells and tastes, and regulating sleep and hunger are all explained, prose augmented by dialogue balloons and information sidebars. Seluk points out, importantly, that feelings originate in the brain: “You can control how you react…but your feelings happen no matter what.” The parodied album covers on the front endpapers (including the Beatles, Pink Floyd, Green Day, Run DMC, Queen, Nirvana) will amuse parents—or at least grandparents—and the rear endpapers serve up band members’ clever social media and texting screenshots. Backmatter includes a glossary and further brain trivia but no resources or bibliography.

A good overview of this complex, essential organ, with an energetic seasoning of silliness. (Informational picture book. 6-8)

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-338-16700-9

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Orchard/Scholastic

Review Posted Online: June 23, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2019

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It’s nothing new in territory or angle, but it’s still a serviceable survey with reasonably durable moving parts.

THE ULTIMATE BOOK OF PLANET EARTH

Flaps, pull tabs, and pop-ups large and small enhance views of our planet’s inside, outside, atmosphere, biosphere, and geophysics.

It’s a hefty, high-speed tour through Earth’s features, climates, and natural resources, with compressed surveys of special topics on multileveled flaps and a spread on the history of life that is extended by a double-foldout wing. But even when teeming with small images of land forms, wildlife, or diverse groups of children and adults, Balicevic’s bright cartoon illustrations look relatively uncrowded. Although the quality of the paper engineering is uneven, the special effects add dramatic set pieces: Readers need to hold in place a humongous column of cumulonimbus clouds for it to reach its full extension; a volcano erupts in a gratifyingly large scale; and, on the plate-tectonics spread, a pull tab gives readers the opportunity to run the Indian Plate into the Eurasian one and see the Himalayas bulge up. A final spread showing resources, mostly renewable ones, being tapped ends with an appeal to protect “our only home.” All in all, it’s a likely alternative to Dougal Jerram’s Utterly Amazing Earth, illustrated by Dan Crisp and Molly Lattin (2017), being broader in scope and a bit more generous in its level of detail.

It’s nothing new in territory or angle, but it’s still a serviceable survey with reasonably durable moving parts. (Informational novelty. 6-9)

Pub Date: Aug. 27, 2019

ISBN: 979-1-02760-562-0

Page Count: 18

Publisher: Twirl/Chronicle

Review Posted Online: July 24, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2019

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