Illuminating, of course—and also a good deal of fun.

HOW TO SURVIVE AS A FIREFLY

“Met-a-more-for-WHAT?” A stern instructor delivers life-cycle information to a class of wide-eyed firefly larvae.

Eventually even pulling a pair of class cutups to attention, the teacher—an adult rather oddly got up in a military uniform in Salcedo’s cartoon illustrations—lays down the (natural) law from “You have four different life cycle stages from when you’re an egg until you’re an adult!” to “As an adult firefly, you have just one job.” Supplementing the lecture with definitions and specific details in frequent side notes (“Finding a Mate 101”), the author covers diet, body parts, bioluminescence, molting, avoiding predators (notably cannibalistic fireflies of the Photuris genus and “giants” wielding jars with screw-top lids), and other topics. Following the teacher’s annoyed “What do you mean you have questions? I only have about 30 seconds left to live,” Foote appends follow-up pages of photos and further facts. She has her finger on the pulse of her audience, informing them of the firefly larva’s appealingly icky dining habits (liquefying its prey with poison) and realistically depicting a moment of near-total distraction when the young students delightedly repeat “bum” before being corrected by their teacher (“Grow up, larvae! It’s your flashing ABDOMEN”).

Illuminating, of course—and also a good deal of fun. (glossary, websites) (Informational picture book. 6-8)

Pub Date: Aug. 29, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-943147-32-8

Page Count: 40

Publisher: The Innovation Press

Review Posted Online: May 10, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2017

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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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An astonishing work of art and a crucial addition to every bookshelf.

WHEN WE SAY BLACK LIVES MATTER

The author of The Patchwork Bike (illustrated by Van Thanh Rudd, 2016) writes to children about the meaning of the phrase Black Lives Matter.

Pastel illustrations, also by Clarke, on dark, textured paper are paired with oversized, contrasting text addressed to “Little one.” In the visuals, a family that begins as a couple expecting a baby grows into a family with a child and then becomes part of a community in protest, marching for Black lives, before a final page shows a jubilant Black boy in a cap and gown. The adult narrator explains that “when we say Black Lives Matter, / we’re saying Black people are wonderful-strong.” Other meanings of the rallying cry, when it is called out, screamed, sung, laughed, and known, include a demand for respect, a defiant joy, a channeling of ancestors, an acknowledgment of trouble, and knowing one’s worth. Clarke’s text is poignant and mesmerizing, with design elements that raise the text to an artistic level, shaping it around the art and highlighting active and emotional words in color: enough, dancing, radiant, precious. The art is truly outstanding, gripping the heart from the very first spread and not letting go. With colored shapes and stained-glass motifs, these Black figures feel real and weighty. Within this deep dive are tragedy, fear, anger, and mourning alongside hope, comfort, strength, and triumph. This slim book contains a necessary and healing exploration of our current moment that will remain relevant for decades to come.

An astonishing work of art and a crucial addition to every bookshelf. (Picture book. 4-10)

Pub Date: Sept. 14, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-5362-2238-8

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Candlewick

Review Posted Online: June 29, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2021

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Just the ticket for an armchair outing to the red planet.

MARS! EARTHLINGS WELCOME

From the Our Universe series , Vol. 5

Good news! Planet Marvelous is looking forward to visitors from Planet Awesome.

With the same exuberance that propelled readers deep into her Ocean! Waves for All (2020), illustrated by David Litchfield, and its three predecessors in the Our Universe series, McAnulty looks to the next planet out for a fresh set of enticing natural wonders. Billing itself a “party planet” (“I want to be the FIRST planet with human guests”), the russet raconteur trumpets its unique attractions. These range from moons Deimos and Phobos (“I know Earth is totally jealous”) to Olympus Mons and Valles Marineris, which is “four times as deep as the Grand Canyon! And not nearly as crowded.” Sure, unlike Spirit, Opportunity, and other rovers, human visitors will have to pack their own water and oxygen in addition to traveling millions of miles…but given a few technological advances, soon enough it’ll be time to “get this party started!” Prospective tourists diverse of age and race are dancing already on Earth in a final scene in anticipation of a trip to our “reMARkable” neighbor. Quiz questions and a timeline cap an enticement that echoes Susanna Leonard Hill’s Mars’ First Friends: Come on Over, Rovers! (2020), illustrated by Elisa Paganelli, in its fizzy mix of fact and fancy. (This book was reviewed digitally with 10-by-20-inch double-page spreads viewed at 75% of actual size.)

Just the ticket for an armchair outing to the red planet. (sources) (Informational picture book. 6-8)

Pub Date: Feb. 9, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-250-25688-1

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Henry Holt

Review Posted Online: Oct. 27, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2020

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