You don’t have to be a certified Junior Genius to enjoy this entertainingly presented introduction.


From the Junior Genius Guide series

A liberally illustrated tongue-in-cheek guide to maps and geography delivers solid information and intriguing facts.

Trivia master Jennings, Jeopardy winner and writer of popular adult books including Maphead (2011), will engage his middle-grade audience with this witty, pleasingly solid introduction to geography. With humor, careful choice of facts, and a clear, familiar organization, he leads readers from the basic workings of the Earth (shape, time zones, latitude and longitude) to the geographical fascination of unusual U.S. place names. Chapters follow the arrangement of a typical school day, with a series of subject-based class periods (among them “The Earth from Space,” “Maps and Legends” and “The Watery Part of the World”) interrupted by recess, art, lunch and music. It all culminates in a final exam and follow-up homework. There are pop quizzes along the way, with coded answers and occasional informational boxes of “extra credit.” Subheads announce the topics of each short section, and sketched maps, charts and lists as well as Lowery’s cartoonlike drawings interrupt the narrative, making the reading appear totally accessible. It will delight middle-grade fact lovers, who will want to go on to learn about Greek Mythology (publishing simultaneously; 978-1-4424-9849-5), U.S. Presidents (coming in May 2014) and more.

You don’t have to be a certified Junior Genius to enjoy this entertainingly presented introduction. (Nonfiction. 8-11)

Pub Date: Feb. 4, 2014

ISBN: 978-1-4424-9848-8

Page Count: 160

Publisher: Little Simon/Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: Dec. 11, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2014

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A classic story of outsiders making friends—with a little something more.


After moving to a new city, a girl attends a wilderness camp to help her make new friends.

When astronomy-obsessed 9-year-old Vega’s dad Wes gets a new job, the family moves from Portland to Seattle. Vega is not happy about this change and doesn’t want to leave her best friend behind, worrying they will grow apart. Vega’s dad Javi thinks making new friends will help her adjust, so he signs her up for Camp Very Best Friend, which is designed to help introverted local children build new friendships. Vega is not exactly eager to go but makes a deal with Wes, agreeing to try out camp as long as he tries to make a new friend too. It quickly becomes clear that this is no ordinary outdoor adventure, and Vega and her fellow campers try to figure out what is really going on. The story smoothly incorporates STEM facts with insets on the page to define and highlight terms or tools. An unexpected twist toward the end of this fast-paced adventure that reveals the truth behind the camp will surprise readers. The clean, bright artwork is enhanced by panels of varying shapes and clear, easy-to-follow speech bubbles. Race, ethnicity, and sexual orientation are not explicitly addressed; characters’ names and physical appearances indicate a broadly diverse cast starting with brown-skinned Vega and her two dads.

A classic story of outsiders making friends—with a little something more. (Graphic fiction. 8-10)

Pub Date: June 29, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-5344-5566-5

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: April 30, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2021

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A rare chance to shine for the former ninth planet.



Is it a planet? A dwarf planet? What’s up with that mysterious body that, even in our best telescopes, floats tantalizingly at the edge of visibility?

Pairing a lighthearted narrative in a hand-lettered–style typeface with informally drawn cartoon illustrations, this lively tale of astronomical revelations begins with the search for “Planet X.” It then sweeps past Pluto’s first sighting by Clyde Tombaugh and its naming by 11-year-old Venetia Burney to the later discovery of more icy worlds—both in our solar system’s Kuiper belt and orbiting other stars. Meanwhile, sailing along with a smug expression, the mottled orange planetoid is “busy dancing with its moons. / Cha-cha / Cha-cha-cha” and Kuiper buddies as it waits for Earth’s astronomers to realize at last that it’s different from the other planets (“BINGO!”) and needs a new classification. Ceres inexplicably rates no entry in the gallery of dwarf planets, and the closing glossary isn’t exactly stellar (“World: Any object in space”), but fans of Basher’s postmodern science surveys will feel right at home with the buoyant mix of personification and hard fact.

A rare chance to shine for the former ninth planet. (photos and additional detail, “Note from the Museum,” suggested reading, bibliography, index) (Nonfiction. 9-11)

Pub Date: March 12, 2013

ISBN: 978-1-4197-0423-9

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Abrams

Review Posted Online: Dec. 26, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2013

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