Like a solar eclipse, this theatrical work of nonfiction is not to be missed.

Rich, poetic language explains the process of a total solar eclipse and ponders its effects on the living creatures below.

With a sweeping sense of scope and scale, the author presents the solar eclipse as a luminous stage show that humans are occasionally privileged to view, a part of a dazzling cycle that’s played out for millennia. The meditative verse offers enough factual information and terminology to make this an excellent choice for a science lesson, with readers gaining a solid sense of exactly what happens during the eclipse, especially when the text is combined with the clear and well-sourced backmatter. But at its heart, this is a story about the shared bonds of humanity, and Fox makes this grandiose cosmic event feel intimate and immediate. Jewel-toned illustrations depict racially diverse characters joyfully gathering together as communities, watching with family and neighbors from beaches and parks. As the moon makes its move “into the spotlight,” the paper-doll–like characters watching the eclipse are left bonded: “Once strangers, now we are friends.” Especially effective are the incandescent double-page spreads showing the moving celestial bodies. Lush turns of phrase such as a vast sky “velvet panorama” are captivating to read aloud, while the repetitive refrain “a few beautiful minutes”—referring to the brief length of time of an eclipse—anchors the experience. (This book was reviewed digitally.)

Like a solar eclipse, this theatrical work of nonfiction is not to be missed. (information on solar eclipses, selected resources, timeline of an eclipse, instructions on building a sun viewer) (Informational picture book. 6-12)

Pub Date: Sept. 26, 2023

ISBN: 9780316416924

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: June 21, 2023

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2023


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


Readers new to Gooseberry Park will hope they don’t have to wait another 20 years for the next book

Twenty years after the publication of Gooseberry Park (1995), Rylant returns with a sequel.

In the previous outing, the residents of Gooseberry Park coped with an ice storm; now, a drought threatens Stumpy the squirrel and her family, along with all the other animals. This spurs house pets chocolate Lab Kona and hermit crab Gwendolyn to devise the titular master plan to help their friends through the ecological disaster. Herman the crow—so smart that the rest of the crows have given up the annual chess match because they got sick of losing to him—works out a flowchart that involves a cat, a possum, a raccoon, 200 owls, and 20 packs of chewing gum. Murray the bat’s motivational-speaker brother puts his well-developed jaw muscles to work on the gum; Kona’s chocolate-Lab sincerity wins the unprecedented cooperation of 200 owls. Rylant writes with her customary restrained humor, creating with apparently no effort a full cast of three-dimensional furred and feathered characters. The story comes with lessons ranging from the overuse of fossil fuels to the peculiar magic of friendship, all applied with a gentle hand and a spirit of generous trust in the abilities of her readers to understand them. Her frequent collaborator Howard supplies lumpily humorous grayscale illustrations that augment the character development and give readers’ eyes places to rest.

Readers new to Gooseberry Park will hope they don’t have to wait another 20 years for the next book . (Fantasy. 8-12)

Pub Date: April 21, 2015

ISBN: 978-1-4814-0449-5

Page Count: 128

Publisher: Beach Lane/Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: March 2, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2015

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