An illuminating look at the dark’s wonders, both informative and atmospheric.

BRIGHT IN THE NIGHT

“When night falls, everything is dark. Or is it?”

In this Swedish import, Sjöberg suggests that viewers look again, and against pitch-black backdrops she casts sprays of stars and curtains of ionized northern (and southern) lights across night skies, glimmering fish and other marine creatures in shallow or deep-sea settings, lambent residents of otherwise lightless caves, fungi and even birds glowing eerily in ultraviolet light, and empty city streets faintly lit by windows and streetlights. Mainly she focuses on the natural world, presenting views of astronomical phenomena, ranks of fluorescent minerals, and dozens of biofluorescent or bioluminescent creatures. These include fire centipedes and certain shrimp that cast glowing nets of slime as a defense, the reflective eyes of cats and deer, puffins with UV–reactive beaks, luminous earthworms, toothy anglerfish, and, in the near future perhaps, glowing trees and textiles. Sjöberg occasionally plays fast and loose with facts—a star will last for a bit more than “thousands of years,” and there actually is a natural explanation for swamp lights. As well, the survey presents readers with a visual challenge by presenting much of the narrative in tiny, dim type. Still, while feeding scientific interest, the author effectively makes a comforting point that for all its feeling of scary mystery, the dark is rarely, if ever, absolute.

An illuminating look at the dark’s wonders, both informative and atmospheric. (afterword) (Informational picture book. 7-9)

Pub Date: Jan. 14, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-500-65219-0

Page Count: 48

Publisher: Thames & Hudson

Review Posted Online: Oct. 13, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2019

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A nifty high-seas caper for chapter-book readers with a love of adventure and a yearning for treasure.

THE PIRATE PIG

It’s not truffles but doubloons that tickle this porcine wayfarer’s fancy.

Funke and Meyer make another foray into chapter-book fare after Emma and the Blue Genie (2014). Here, mariner Stout Sam and deckhand Pip eke out a comfortable existence on Butterfly Island ferrying cargo to and fro. Life is good, but it takes an unexpected turn when a barrel washes ashore containing a pig with a skull-and-crossbones pendant around her neck. It soon becomes clear that this little piggy, dubbed Julie, has the ability to sniff out treasure—lots of it—in the sea. The duo is pleased with her skills, but pride goeth before the hog. Stout Sam hands out some baubles to the local children, and his largess attracts the unwanted attention of Barracuda Bill and his nasty minions. Now they’ve pignapped Julie, and it’s up to the intrepid sailors to save the porker and their own bacon. The succinct word count meets the needs of kids looking for early adventure fare. The tale is slight, bouncy, and amusing, though Julie is never the piratical buccaneer the book’s cover seems to suggest. Meanwhile, Meyer’s cheery watercolors are as comfortable diagramming the different parts of a pirate vessel as they are rendering the dread pirate captain himself.

A nifty high-seas caper for chapter-book readers with a love of adventure and a yearning for treasure. (Adventure. 7-9)

Pub Date: June 23, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-385-37544-3

Page Count: 80

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: March 17, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2015

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A visually striking, compelling recollection.

FROM THE TOPS OF THE TREES

The author recounts a formative childhood experience that continues to inspire her today.

Born to Hmong refugees, Kalia has only ever known the confines of the Ban Vinai refugee camp in Thailand. Even while playing with her cousins, reminders of the hardships of their life are always present. She overhears the aunties sharing their uncertainty and fear of the future. They are a people with no home country and are still trying to find peace. Kalia asks her father why they live behind a gate and wonders what lies beyond the fences that surround the camp. The next day they climb a tall tree, and he shows her the vast expanse around them, from familiar camp landmarks to distant mountains “where the sky meets earth.” This story of resilience and generational hope is told in an expressive, straightforward narrative style. The simplicity of the text adds a level of poignancy that moves readers to reflection. The layered and heavily textured illustrations complement the text while highlighting the humanity of the refugees and providing a quiet dignity to camp life. The militarylike color palette of olive greens, golden yellows, and rich browns reinforces the guarded atmosphere but also represents the transitional period from winter to spring, a time ripe with anticipation and promise.

A visually striking, compelling recollection. (author's note, glossary, map.) (Picture book/memoir. 5-9)

Pub Date: Oct. 5, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-5415-8130-2

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Carolrhoda

Review Posted Online: June 29, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2021

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A launch-pad fizzle.

THE ULTIMATE BOOK OF SPACE

Flaps and pull-tabs in assorted astro-scenes reveal several wonders of the universe as well as inside glimpses of observatories, rockets, a space suit, and the International Space Station.

Interactive features include a spinnable Milky Way, pop-up launches of Ariane and Soyuz rockets, a solar-system tour, visits to the surfaces of the moon and Mars, and cutaway views beneath long, thin flaps of an international array of launch vehicles. Despite these bells and whistles, this import is far from ready for liftoff. Not only has Antarctica somehow gone missing from the pop-up globe, but Baumann’s commentary (at least in Booker’s translation from the French original) shows more enthusiasm than strict attention to accuracy. Both Mercury and Venus are designated “hottest planet” (right answer: Venus); claims that there is no gravity in space and that black holes are a type of star are at best simplistic; and “we do not know what [other galaxies] actually look like” is nonsensical. Moreover, in a clumsy attempt to diversify the cast on a spread about astronaut training, Latyk gives an (evidently) Asian figure caricatured slit eyes and yellow skin.

A launch-pad fizzle. (Informational pop-up picture book. 7-9)

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 2016

ISBN: 979-1-02760-197-4

Page Count: 24

Publisher: Chronicle Books

Review Posted Online: Aug. 30, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2016

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