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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An unpalatable mess left half-baked by an ill-conceived gimmick.

THERE WAS A BLACK HOLE THAT SWALLOWED THE UNIVERSE

Modeling a classic nursery song, a black hole does what a black hole does.

Ferrie reverses the song’s customary little-to-large order and shows frequent disregard for such niceties as actual rhymes and regular metrics. Also playing fast and loose with internal logic, she tracks a black hole as it cumulatively chows down, Pac-Man–style, on the entire universe, then galaxies (“It left quite a cavity after swallowing that galaxy”), stars, planets, cells, molecules, atoms, neutrons, and finally the ultimate: “There was a black hole that swallowed a quark. / That’s all there was. / And now it’s dark.” Then, in a twist that limits the audience for this feature to aging hippies and collectors of psychedelic posters, the author enjoins viewers to turn a black light (not supplied) onto the pages and flip back through for “an entirely different story.” What that might be, or even whether a filtered light source would work as well as a UV bulb, is left to anybody’s guess. The black hole and most of its victims sport roly-poly bodies and comically dismayed expressions in Batori’s cartoon illustrations—the universe in its entirety goes undepicted, unsurprisingly, and the quark never does appear, in the visible spectrum at least. This anthropomorphization adds a slapstick element that does nothing to pull the physics and the premise together.

An unpalatable mess left half-baked by an ill-conceived gimmick. (Picture book. 6-8)

Pub Date: Sept. 3, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-4926-8077-2

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Sourcebooks eXplore

Review Posted Online: July 28, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2019

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Phoned-in illustrations keep this quick overview firmly planted on the launch pad.

THE BIG BEYOND

THE STORY OF SPACE TRAVEL

A capsule history of space exploration, from early stargazing to probes roaming the surface of Mars.

In loosely rhymed couplets Carter’s high-speed account zooms past the inventions of constellations, telescopes, and flying machines to the launches of Sputnik I, the “Saturn Five” (spelled out, probably, to facilitate the rhyme) that put men on the moon, and later probes. He caps it all with an enticing suggestion: “We’ll need an astronaut (or two)— / so what do you think? Could it be YOU?” Cushley lines up a notably diverse array of prospective young space travelers for this finish, but anachronistic earlier views of a dark-skinned astronaut floating in orbit opposite poetic references to the dogs, cats, and other animals sent into space in the 1950s and a model of the space shuttle on a shelf next to a line of viewers watching the televised moon landing in 1969 show no great regard for verisimilitude. Also, his full-page opening picture of the Challenger, its ports painted to look like a smiley face, just moments before it blew up is a decidedly odd choice to illustrate the poem’s opening countdown. As with his cosmological lyric Once upon a Star (2018, illustrated by Mar Hernández), the poet closes with a page of further facts arranged as an acrostic.

Phoned-in illustrations keep this quick overview firmly planted on the launch pad. (Informational picture book. 6-8)

Pub Date: April 1, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-68010-147-8

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Tiger Tales

Review Posted Online: Jan. 15, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2019

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