The overarching concept, introducing children to science subjects using humor, is solid; too bad the verse doesn’t rise to...

HUNGRY FOR SCIENCE

POEMS TO CRUNCH ON

Whimsical rhymes describe a range of science topics for a younger audience.

Magnetism, geology, and the life cycle of a flea are just a few of the topics explored in this bright, energetic picture book. Appealing illustrations show a diverse array of characters gardening, building, sensing, and experimenting, with forays into the solar system and the animal kingdom as well. Each full-page spread presents a poem, and it is here that the book begins to fall down. The poems vary in structure: Some are rhyming couplets, some alternate rhymed and unrhymed lines, a few utilize repetition. However, only some of the stanzas effectively utilize meter, so readers are often required to wrench syllables around in order to get them to scan, marring the reading experience whether it’s to oneself or to an audience. The wacky poem about chemistry, for example, concludes “Hurray for the Captain! / The King of Chemistry! / His all-purpose cleaner / is also earth friend-ly!” Some of the scenarios are fun, others are more meditative, and the titular piece seems intended to encourage girls in STEM, but the educational possibilities are overall stymied by the versification.

The overarching concept, introducing children to science subjects using humor, is solid; too bad the verse doesn’t rise to the occasion. (Picture book/poetry. 4-8)

Pub Date: Sept. 15, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-55455-396-9

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Fitzhenry & Whiteside

Review Posted Online: June 25, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2018

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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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A simple but effective look at a keystone species.

IF YOU TAKE AWAY THE OTTER

Sea otters are the key to healthy kelp forests on the Pacific coast of North America.

There have been several recent titles for older readers about the critical role sea otters play in the coastal Pacific ecosystem. This grand, green version presents it to even younger readers and listeners, using a two-level text and vivid illustrations. Biologist Buhrman-Deever opens as if she were telling a fairy tale: “On the Pacific coast of North America, where the ocean meets the shore, there are forests that have no trees.” The treelike forms are kelp, home to numerous creatures. Two spreads show this lush underwater jungle before its king, the sea otter, is introduced. A delicate balance allows this system to flourish, but there was a time that hunting upset this balance. The writer is careful to blame not the Indigenous peoples who had always hunted the area, but “new people.” In smaller print she explains that Russian explorations spurred the development of an international fur trade. Trueman paints the scene, concentrating on an otter family threatened by formidable harpoons from an abstractly rendered person in a small boat, with a sailing ship in the distance. “People do not always understand at first the changes they cause when they take too much.” Sea urchins take over; a page turn reveals a barren landscape. Happily, the story ends well when hunting stops and the otters return…and with them, the kelp forests.

A simple but effective look at a keystone species. (further information, select bibliography, additional resources) (Informational picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: May 26, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-7636-8934-6

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Candlewick

Review Posted Online: Jan. 28, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2020

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