An also-ran bearing a respectable informational payload but inching along a well-covered track.

ROVER THROWS A PARTY

INSPIRED BY NASA'S CURIOSITY ON MARS

After a year of digging, sifting, baking, sweeping, and photographing the surface of Mars, it’s party time.

Unlike Sara Schonfeld’s effervescent Birthday on Mars!, illustrated by Andrew J. Ross (2019), this introduction to the durable Curiosity (still ticking over six years after its original mission’s conclusion) is as dry overall as the red planet itself. “Ack! Spooked by my own shadow. That happens when you’re the ONLY ONE on a planet,” reads Curiosity’s narration, set in a typeface that looks like a digital readout. Supplemental text explains, “Shadows are made on Mars in the same way they are formed on Earth, by an object blocking the light. In this case, the rover is blocking sunlight.” In strained efforts to inject some color into Gray’s drab descriptions of Curiosity’s gear, activities, and surroundings, Magoon tops the angularly drawn rover’s “ChemCam” with a perky party hat partway through, litters the dimly lit Martian landscape with printed invitations, and, confusingly, rolls in a nonexistent second rover bearing party balloons to get the festivities underway. Readers will likely find the closing author’s note, which includes a dramatic account of the rover’s landing, notes on each of its six specialized cameras, and several color photos, more memorable than the stolid preceding narrative.

An also-ran bearing a respectable informational payload but inching along a well-covered track. (bibliography) (Informational picture book. 6-8)

Pub Date: March 31, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-525-64648-8

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: Dec. 8, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2020

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

“It’s time to head back home,” the narrator concludes. “You’ve touched the Earth in so many ways.” Who knew it would be so...

TOUCH THE EARTH

From the Julian Lennon White Feather Flier Adventure series , Vol. 1

A pro bono Twinkie of a book invites readers to fly off in a magic plane to bring clean water to our planet’s oceans, deserts, and brown children.

Following a confusingly phrased suggestion beneath a soft-focus world map to “touch the Earth. Now touch where you live,” a shake of the volume transforms it into a plane with eyes and feathered wings that flies with the press of a flat, gray “button” painted onto the page. Pressing like buttons along the journey releases a gush of fresh water from the ground—and later, illogically, provides a filtration device that changes water “from yucky to clean”—for thirsty groups of smiling, brown-skinned people. At other stops, a tap on the button will “help irrigate the desert,” and touching floating bottles and other debris in the ocean supposedly makes it all disappear so the fish can return. The 20 children Coh places on a globe toward the end are varied of skin tone, but three of the four young saviors she plants in the flier’s cockpit as audience stand-ins are white. The closing poem isn’t so openly parochial, though it seldom rises above vague feel-good sentiments: “Love the Earth, the moon and sun. / All the children can be one.”

“It’s time to head back home,” the narrator concludes. “You’ve touched the Earth in so many ways.” Who knew it would be so easy to clean the place up and give everyone a drink? (Picture book. 6-8)

Pub Date: April 11, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-5107-2083-1

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Sky Pony Press

Review Posted Online: Feb. 4, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2017

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

Life’s questions remain unanswered in this attractive but frustratingly bland book.

THE BOY AND THE SEA

A boy’s life is steered by and reflected in his relationship with the sea.

In a series of swirling, impressionistic, watercolor seascapes, a dark-haired, white-skinned boy is pictured at different life stages: as a young child; as a grown man with a family; and as an old man. At each stage, he receives a meaningful message from the sea. His moods are reflected in the moods of the sea, sometimes “dark and dangerous,” sometimes “tranquil and tender.” As the boy moves through the life stages, both he and the sea feel “the pull of something more.” He looks to the sea for answers to life’s questions, and sometimes they are answered—but just with a word: dream, love, be. Even when he is grown, he still does not know the answers to his questions. In its coverage of an entire life’s span, the book seems to be attempting to provide a universal message of guidance for growing up, but it’s too general and lacking in any kind of strong connection to be of value or of interest to a developing child. Small vignettes hint at adolescent conflicts, but so obliquely and superficially as to be valueless and at times obscure—particularly given that the audience for this book has not yet reached adolescence. That said, Bates’ paintings are lovely, capturing foamy, cresting waves in varying degrees of vigor; this seascape is never still. (This book was reviewed digitally with 8.5-by-22-inch double-page spreads viewed at 50% of actual size.)

Life’s questions remain unanswered in this attractive but frustratingly bland book. (Picture book. 6-8)

Pub Date: May 11, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-4197-4940-7

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Abrams

Review Posted Online: March 31, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2021

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet
more