Both an intriguing introduction to astronomy and an involving tale of a strong woman who overcame adversity.

SHE CAUGHT THE LIGHT

WILLIAMINA STEVENS FLEMING: ASTRONOMER

A scientific dreamer grounded in hard work.

Poetic, accessible text combines with intricate, appealing illustrations to portray Williamina Stevens Fleming (1857-1911), talented astronomer, resilient and highly intelligent individual, and the first woman given an official title (curator of astronomical photographs) at Harvard University. Her early years are gracefully depicted (her exposure to the magic of chemistry and light via her photographer father; her job teaching at age 14 after his death; how she left Dundee, Scotland, in order to marry and move to Cambridge, Massachusetts), leading up to her husband’s disappearance and her path to astronomy. Alone and expecting a child, she secured a job as a maid in the home of the director of the Harvard College Observatory, where she asked questions, absorbed information, and was eventually hired to study and calculate the colors produced by stars and recorded by the observatory. Her discoveries and her love of astronomy rise to the surface and will inspire an interest in young readers and listeners while the struggles and inequities she faced—raising a child alone, subsisting on low wages, not being allowed to use a telescope out of spurious concern for her health—show the difficulties she dealt with as a woman of the time and how she paved the way for others. Swaney’s delicate cartoons depict Fleming in Edwardian garb, a White woman amid an almost all-White cast. (This book was reviewed digitally with 11-by-18-inch double-page spreads viewed at 57.4% of actual size.)

Both an intriguing introduction to astronomy and an involving tale of a strong woman who overcame adversity. (timeline, glossary, biographical note, author’s note, bibliography) (Picture book/biography. 6-10)

Pub Date: Jan. 19, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-06-284930-4

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Sept. 29, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 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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A refreshing dive past some of our world’s marine wonders.

THE BIG BOOK OF THE BLUE

Denizens of the deep crowd oversized pages in this populous gallery of ocean life.

The finny and tentacled sea creatures drifting or arrowing through Zommer’s teeming watercolor seascapes are generally recognizable, and they are livened rather than distorted by the artist’s tendency to place human eyes on the same side of many faces, Picasso-like. Headers such as “Ink-teresting” or “In for the krill” likewise add a playful tone to the pithy comments on anatomical features or behavioral quirks that accompany the figures (which include, though rarely, a white human diver). The topical spreads begin with an overview of ocean families (“Some are hairy, some have scales, some have fins and some are boneless and brainless!”), go on to introduce select animals in no particular order from sea horses and dragonets to penguins and pufferfish, then close with cautionary remarks on chemical pollution and floating plastic. The author invites readers as they go to find both answers to such questions as “Why does a crab run sideways?” and also a small sardine hidden in some, but not all, of the pictures. For the latter he provides a visual key at the end, followed by a basic glossary.

A refreshing dive past some of our world’s marine wonders. (index) (Informational picture book. 6-9)

Pub Date: June 5, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-500-65119-3

Page Count: 64

Publisher: Thames & Hudson

Review Posted Online: April 25, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2018

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