Disappointingly lackadaisical.

WHEN SPARKS FLY

THE TRUE STORY OF ROBERT GODDARD, THE FATHER OF US ROCKETRY

Punctuated—unsurprisingly—by explosions, an account of the groundbreaking rocketeer’s childhood and first experiments.

Fueled by an early interest in hands-on science nurtured by his parents and sparked by reading The War of the Worlds, Goddard’s ambition to “build something that would soar to space” led to years of experimentation and failure analysis. Finally, in 1926, a brief but successful flight pointed the way to “every shuttle that has blasted into space, every astronaut who has defied gravity, and every man who has walked on the moon.” Fulton occasionally skimps on scientific details (in one childhood trial Robert “emptied a small vial of hydrogen into a pan”; even in the backmatter, there’s no explanation why, as he notes in his journal, “Hydrogen and oxygen when combined near a flame will ignite”). Still, she highlights the profound curiosity and determined, methodical effort that ultimately earned her subject a well-deserved place in the pantheon of scientists and inventors. Scientific gear in Funck’s cartoon illustrations often looks generic, and in one scene he depicts a rocket that is markedly different from the one described in the adjacent narrative. Moreover, his explosions look like fried eggs, and most come with oddly undersized if all-capped onomatopoeia (“BOOM!”; “POP!”) that underplays both the melodramatic potential and the real danger to which Goddard must have exposed himself. Goddard and his family are white.

Disappointingly lackadaisical. (afterword, list of sources) (Picture book/biography. 7-9)

Pub Date: July 3, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-4814-6098-9

Page Count: 40

Publisher: McElderry

Review Posted Online: March 27, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2018

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Together with its companions, too rushed to be first introductions but suitable as second ones.

MARIE CURIE AND RADIOACTIVITY

From the Graphic Science Biographies series

A highlights reel of the great scientist’s life and achievements, from clandestine early schooling to the founding of Warsaw’s Radium Institute.

In big sequential panels Bayarri dashes through Curie’s career, barely pausing at significant moments (“Mother! A letter just arrived. It’s from Sweden,” announces young Irène. “Oh, really?…They’re awarding me another Nobel!”) in a seeming rush to cover her youth, family life, discoveries, World War I work, and later achievements (with only a closing timeline noting her death, of “aplastic anemia”). Button-eyed but recognizable figures in the panels pour out lecture-ish dialogue. This is well stocked with names and scientific terms but offered with little or no context—characteristics shared by co-published profiles on Albert Einstein and the Theory of Relativity (“You and your thought experiments, Albert!” “We love it! The other day, Schrödinger thought up one about a cat”), Charles Darwin and the Theory of Evolution, and Isaac Newton and the Laws of Motion. Dark-skinned Tierra del Fuegans make appearances in Darwin, prompting the young naturalist to express his strong anti-slavery views; otherwise the cast is white throughout the series. Engagingly informal as the art and general tone of the narratives are, the books will likely find younger readers struggling to keep up, but kids already exposed to the names and at least some of the concepts will find these imports, translated from the Basque, helpful if, at times, dry overviews.

Together with its companions, too rushed to be first introductions but suitable as second ones. (glossary, index, resource list) (Graphic biography. 7-9)

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-5415-7821-0

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Graphic Universe

Review Posted Online: Oct. 9, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2019

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Just the ticket for mechanically curious kids.

MARVELOUS MACHINES

A MAGIC LENS BOOK

A detachable acetate eyepiece lets budding engineers peek into buildings, the inner workings of vehicles from bicycles to submarines, and even a human torso.

Peering through the colored spyglass embedded in the front cover at Lozano’s cartoon scenes makes large areas of red stippling or crosshatching disappear, revealing electrical wiring and other infrastructure in or under buildings, robots at work on an assembly line, the insides of a jet and a container ship, and other hidden areas or facilities. Though younger viewers will get general pictures of how, for instance, internal-combustion (but not electric) cars are propelled, what MRIs and ultrasound scans reveal, and the main steps in printing and binding books, overall the visual detail is radically simplified in Lozano’s assemblages of cartoon images. Likewise, the sheaves of descriptive captions are light on specifics—noting that airplane wings create lift but neglecting to explain just how, say, or why maglev train magnets are supercooled. Still, Wilsher introduces simple machines at the outset (five of the six, anyway), and the ensuing selection of complex ones is current enough to include a spy drone and Space X’s Falcon 9 rocket. Along with displaying a range of skin tones, the human cast of machine users visible in most scenes includes an astronomer wearing a hijab. All in all, it’s a revealing, if sketchy, roll toward David Macaulay’s The Way Things Work Now (2016).

Just the ticket for mechanically curious kids. (Informational novelty. 7-9)

Pub Date: Feb. 2, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-912920-20-4

Page Count: 48

Publisher: What on Earth Books

Review Posted Online: Nov. 27, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2020

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