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STARSTRUCK

THE COSMIC JOURNEY OF NEIL DEGRASSE TYSON

An informative and entertaining title for aspiring young scientists.

An introduction to the brilliant African-American astrophysicist who, from an early age, found his passion in the skies.

This biography tells of Tyson’s childhood in the Bronx, where he walked dogs to earn money for his first big telescope, through which he viewed the stars from the rooftop of his apartment building, the aptly named Skyview. Mistaking the telescope for a rifle, neighbors often called the police, but Tyson would win the cops over by showing them the stars or his favorite planet, Saturn. The nearby Hayden Planetarium became an important educational space for Tyson, opening up opportunities such as an ocean-liner trip to the northwest African coast with 2,000 scientists to observe a solar eclipse when he was just 14. Attending the Bronx High School of Science, Tyson excelled in science but also in dance and wrestling. After attending Harvard, he returned home to work at Hayden Planetarium, the place where he first glimpsed the stars. Along with other astrophysicists, Tyson remapped the solar system, reclassifying Pluto as a dwarf planet. While the authors’ informative, enthusiastic telling keeps readers interested in Tyson’s nerdy and passionate pursuit of deeper knowledge about all things celestial, the illustrations border on caricature at times and, perhaps as a result, create many inconsistencies in Tyson’s appearance. The recurring starry backgrounds, however, successfully emphasize the importance of stars in Tyson’s life.

An informative and entertaining title for aspiring young scientists. (Picture book/biography. 5-8)

Pub Date: Oct. 9, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-399-55024-9

Page Count: 48

Publisher: Crown

Review Posted Online: July 15, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2018

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BASKETBALL DREAMS

Blandly inspirational fare made to evoke equally shrink-wrapped responses.

An NBA star pays tribute to the influence of his grandfather.

In the same vein as his Long Shot (2009), illustrated by Frank Morrison, this latest from Paul prioritizes values and character: “My granddad Papa Chilly had dreams that came true,” he writes, “so maybe if I listen and watch him, / mine will too.” So it is that the wide-eyed Black child in the simply drawn illustrations rises early to get to the playground hoops before anyone else, watches his elder working hard and respecting others, hears him cheering along with the rest of the family from the stands during games, and recalls in a prose afterword that his grandfather wasn’t one to lecture but taught by example. Paul mentions in both the text and the backmatter that Papa Chilly was the first African American to own a service station in North Carolina (his presumed dream) but not that he was killed in a robbery, which has the effect of keeping the overall tone positive and the instructional content one-dimensional. Figures in the pictures are mostly dark-skinned. (This book was reviewed digitally.)

Blandly inspirational fare made to evoke equally shrink-wrapped responses. (Picture book. 6-8)

Pub Date: Jan. 10, 2023

ISBN: 978-1-250-81003-8

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Roaring Brook Press

Review Posted Online: Sept. 27, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2022

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MALALA'S MAGIC PENCIL

An inspiring introduction to the young Nobel Peace Prize winner and a useful conversation starter.

The latest of many picture books about the young heroine from Pakistan, this one is narrated by Malala herself, with a frame that is accessible to young readers.

Malala introduces her story using a television show she used to watch about a boy with a magic pencil that he used to get himself and his friends out of trouble. Readers can easily follow Malala through her own discovery of troubles in her beloved home village, such as other children not attending school and soldiers taking over the village. Watercolor-and-ink illustrations give a strong sense of setting, while gold ink designs overlay Malala’s hopes onto her often dreary reality. The story makes clear Malala’s motivations for taking up the pen to tell the world about the hardships in her village and only alludes to the attempt on her life, with a black page (“the dangerous men tried to silence me. / But they failed”) and a hospital bracelet on her wrist the only hints of the harm that came to her. Crowds with signs join her call before she is shown giving her famous speech before the United Nations. Toward the end of the book, adult readers may need to help children understand Malala’s “work,” but the message of holding fast to courage and working together is powerful and clear.

An inspiring introduction to the young Nobel Peace Prize winner and a useful conversation starter. (Picture book/memoir. 5-8)

Pub Date: Oct. 17, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-316-31957-7

Page Count: 48

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: Aug. 1, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2017

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