This unusual book offers a surprising amount of information, organized and presented in an appealing way for...


Why do people choose to live where they do in our world?

Vermond’s introduction to that big question points out that humans adapt: They use their big brains and work together to make places livable. A comfortable climate, readily available food and water, power for heat, light, transportation and communication, people who speak the same language, nearby families and plentiful jobs are just some of the things people are looking for. From the “Planet Perfect” to making your hometown one of “The Happiest Places on Earth,” the author considers human needs, briefly surveys the development of cities, explains what urban planners do, considers the reasons for living in a dangerous place as well as the reasons for moving, and touches on the effects of climate change and the possibility of living elsewhere in the universe. Each spread covers a separate topic. The extensive, conversational text is often set in columns and broken down into short segments, each with a heading, moving along quickly. A lively design and humorous illustrations add appeal. Unfortunately, there are no sources or suggestions for further reading.

This unusual book offers a surprising amount of information, organized and presented in an appealing way for upper-elementary students. (glossary, index) (Nonfiction. 8-11)

Pub Date: Sept. 15, 2014

ISBN: 978-1-77147-011-7

Page Count: 48

Publisher: Owlkids Books

Review Posted Online: Aug. 13, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2014

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Likely destined to be left in the dust soon but more up to date than most.


A compact survey of single-horned beasts in legend, nature, pop culture, and business.

Laskow begins “more than 2,300 years ago” with a reference to one-horned wild asses. She then moves along with genial dispatch through versions of the creature reported from China, Chile, medieval Europe, and elsewhere—plus variations such as Rishyasringa, a horned man in the Indian epics—and how the concept of unicorns has changed from scary wild beast to rainbow-pooping white steed. She describes how they can be captured by “maidens” (euphemistically defined as “unmarried girls and young women”) and the uses to which their supposed horns can supposedly be put. Along with tallying such verifiable examples as the rhinoceros, unicorn fish, and, of course, narwhal, she also explains how goats and other animals can sometimes, through accident or human design, grow but one horn. Trotting from topic to topic in fairly arbitrary fashion, she brings her account up to the present by stringing together references to unicorn-themed weddings, My Little Pony, unicorn lattes and cupcakes, video games, “unicorn” business startups, and other current usages. Beck slips occasional cartoon-style human figures of diverse skin color into the equally casual mix of maps, beastly portraits, period images, and freely redrawn pictures of old art and artifacts.

Likely destined to be left in the dust soon but more up to date than most. (bibliography) (Nonfiction. 8-11)

Pub Date: Aug. 13, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-5247-9273-2

Page Count: 96

Publisher: Penguin Workshop

Review Posted Online: June 16, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2019

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Hits the sweet spot between chortles and choked screams.


From the Mythical Beasts series

Ten monsters from myth and legend take a bow—each furnished with competitive scores in five monstrous characteristics and a portrait in full, lurid melodramaticolor.

Arranged 10th to first on a cumulated “Beast Power” rating based on Strength, Repulsiveness, Special Powers, Ferocity, and Invincibility, each creature except the glowering Echidna (who resembles Patti Smith in a giant snake outfit) is posed in Chilvers’ painted scenes looming out of mist or wave, stupendous dentifrice on full display, in the midst of a ferocious attack. Peebles begins each profile with a perfunctory scenario (“A cloud of fear hung over the village. For months an Oni had been lurking by the village gates…”). She then explains how each monster was or might be defeated and identifies the culture or a literary work with which it is associated. Following a recapitulative “Rogues’ Gallery,” she closes with notes on related subjects, such as the dragon Fafnir’s cursed golden ring. Readers will find this bestiary thrilling edutainment, though they are sure to wonder how the Balinese Leyak, which are “disembodied heads propelled by the pulsating movement of their own entrails,” only come in as No. 9. The co-published Giants and Trolls (a third new volume in the series, Mighty Mutants, was not seen) offers similar draws, though Cuchulain is an odd choice for inclusion.

Hits the sweet spot between chortles and choked screams. (Nonfiction. 8-10)

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 2015

ISBN: 978-1-4677-6341-7

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Hungry Tomato/Lerner

Review Posted Online: July 15, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2015

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