A real browsers’ buffet, though everything on the menu is appetizer sized.

FACTOPIA!

FOLLOW THE TRAIL OF 400 FACTS...

Free association rules in this gathering of hundreds of facts about science, technology, and the natural world.

Strung along a single long, fine dotted line that meanders irregularly across each page from first to last, the one- or two-sentence factoids and observations veer from topic to topic but are linked by a key word or concept. The fact, for instance, that a rectangle has four sides leads to the note that there are four species of giraffe, then to the information that a group of giraffes is a “tower,” that the Eiffel Tower gets 60 tons of paint slapped on it every seven years, that cave artists added the mineral mica to their paint, that fluoride is a mineral, and so on and on. As one way to vary the pace of the onslaught of trivia, the line occasionally forks to send readers to a related sequence on another page, and as another, the illustrations mix bright stock photos and Smith’s comical cartoon figures in a broad range of sizes. Readers with attention spans on the short side may indeed find plenty of, as Hale promises, “mind-blowing, wow-worthy and crazily cool” facts, but the arbitrary ordering will quickly lead to informational overload with any sustained exposure. Alas, the “FACTopians” provide no sources beyond a slew of unidentified URLs at the end—to the various resources’ homepages, to boot, so would-be researchers who go to usgs.gov, for example, will be hard-pressed to find out exactly what information was gleaned from there.

A real browsers’ buffet, though everything on the menu is appetizer sized. (Nonfiction. 6-10)

Pub Date: May 4, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-912920-71-6

Page Count: 208

Publisher: Britannica Books

Review Posted Online: March 2, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2021

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An immersive dunk into a vast subject—and on course for shorter attention spans.

EVERYTHING AWESOME ABOUT SHARKS AND OTHER UNDERWATER CREATURES!

In the wake of Everything Awesome About Dinosaurs and Other Prehistoric Beasts! (2019), Lowery spins out likewise frothy arrays of facts and observations about sharks, whales, giant squid, and smaller but no less extreme (or at least extremely interesting) sea life.

He provides plenty of value-added features, from overviews of oceanic zones and environments to jokes, drawing instructions, and portrait galleries suitable for copying or review. While not one to pass up any opportunity to, for instance, characterize ambergris as “whale vomit perfume” or the clownfish’s protective coating as “snot armor,” he also systematically introduces members of each of the eight orders of sharks, devotes most of a page to the shark’s electroreceptive ampullae of Lorenzini, and even sheds light on the unobvious differences between jellyfish and the Portuguese man-of-war or the reason why the blue octopus is said to have “arms” rather than “tentacles.” He also argues persuasively that sharks have gotten a bad rap (claiming that more people are killed each year by…vending machines) and closes with pleas to be concerned about plastic waste, to get involved in conservation efforts, and (cannily) to get out and explore our planet because (quoting Jacques-Yves Cousteau) “People protect what they love.” Human figures, some with brown skin, pop up occasionally to comment in the saturated color illustrations. (This book was reviewed digitally with 10-by-17-inch double-page spreads viewed at 45% of actual size.)

An immersive dunk into a vast subject—and on course for shorter attention spans. (bibliography, list of organizations) (Nonfiction. 7-10)

Pub Date: Oct. 6, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-338-35973-2

Page Count: 128

Publisher: Orchard/Scholastic

Review Posted Online: June 30, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 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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