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An enticing glimpse into an inventor’s process.

A quick-witted young man decided that wheels and human legs might replace horses.

When a volcano erupted in Indonesia in 1815, it created a “year without a summer.” Freezing temperatures and snow were reported across the globe. Crops couldn’t grow, and farmers found it too expensive to keep horses. Karl Drais, a forester from Baden, Germany, loved riding on horseback, but he couldn’t do so during that grim period. A keen inventor, Karl wondered if he could use wagon wheels to create a machine that would allow people to move swiftly using their own power. He experimented with various contraptions, using parts of an old carriage and assorted bits. After several unsuccessful attempts, Karl devised the idea of placing one spinnable wagon wheel in front of the other, with a seat in between. He added handlebars, and voilà, a human-powered “running machine” was born! (There were no pedals yet.) A crowd gathered to watch Karl take his very first ride as he pushed off with both feet. This fast-paced story will delight young readers, especially enthusiastic bike riders. Negley clearly explains how Karl methodically tweaked his invention; would-be inventors should take note. The illustrations, more cartoonish than realistic, were created digitally and with graphite pencil and paper collage; they appropriately zing with lots of movement.

An enticing glimpse into an inventor’s process. (author’s note, painting of Karl Drais, prototype of the first running machine) (Informational picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: July 23, 2024

ISBN: 9780063119826

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Balzer + Bray/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: April 5, 2024

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2024

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A good bet for the youngest bird-watchers.

Echoing the meter of “Mary Had a Little Lamb,” Ward uses catchy original rhymes to describe the variety of nests birds create.

Each sweet stanza is complemented by a factual, engaging description of the nesting habits of each bird. Some of the notes are intriguing, such as the fact that the hummingbird uses flexible spider web to construct its cup-shaped nest so the nest will stretch as the chicks grow. An especially endearing nesting behavior is that of the emperor penguin, who, with unbelievable patience, incubates the egg between his tummy and his feet for up to 60 days. The author clearly feels a mission to impart her extensive knowledge of birds and bird behavior to the very young, and she’s found an appealing and attractive way to accomplish this. The simple rhymes on the left page of each spread, written from the young bird’s perspective, will appeal to younger children, and the notes on the right-hand page of each spread provide more complex factual information that will help parents answer further questions and satisfy the curiosity of older children. Jenkins’ accomplished collage illustrations of common bird species—woodpecker, hummingbird, cowbird, emperor penguin, eagle, owl, wren—as well as exotics, such as flamingoes and hornbills, are characteristically naturalistic and accurate in detail.

A good bet for the youngest bird-watchers.   (author’s note, further resources) (Informational picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: March 18, 2014

ISBN: 978-1-4424-2116-5

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Beach Lane/Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: Jan. 3, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2014

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A solid, small step for diversifying STEM stories.

What does Annie want to be?

As career day approaches, Annie wants to keep her job choice secret until her family sees her presentation at school. Readers will figure it out, however, through the title and clues Tadgell incorporates into the illustrations. Family members make guesses about her ambitions that are tied to their own passions, although her brother watches as she completes her costume in a bedroom with a Mae Jemison poster, starry décor, and a telescope. There’s a celebratory mood at the culminating presentation, where Annie says she wants to “soar high through the air” like her basketball-playing mother, “explore faraway places” like her hiker dad, and “be brave and bold” like her baker grandmother (this feels forced, but oven mitts are part of her astronaut costume) so “the whole world will hear my exciting stories” like her reporter grandfather. Annie jumps off a chair to “BLAST OFF” in a small illustration superimposed on a larger picture depicting her floating in space with a reddish ground below. It’s unclear if Annie imagines this scene or if it’s her future-self exploring Mars, but either scenario fits the aspirational story. Backmatter provides further reading suggestions and information about the moon and four women astronauts, one of whom is Jemison. Annie and her family are all black.

A solid, small step for diversifying STEM stories. (Picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: March 6, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-88448-523-0

Page Count: 36

Publisher: Tilbury House

Review Posted Online: Feb. 3, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2018

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