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


“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 floral fantasia for casual browsers as well as budding botanists.


Spirited illustrations brighten a large-format introduction to flowers and their pollinators.

Showing a less Eurocentric outlook than in his Big Book of Birds (2019), Zommer employs agile brushwork and a fondness for graceful lines and bright colors to bring to life bustling bouquets from a range of habitats, from rainforest to desert. Often switching from horizontal to vertical orientations, the topical spreads progress from overviews of major floral families and broad looks at plant anatomy and reproduction to close-ups of select flora—roses and tulips to Venus flytraps and stinking flowers. The book then closes with a shoutout to the conservators and other workers at Kew Gardens (this is a British import) and quick suggestions for young balcony or windowsill gardeners. In most of the low-angled scenes, fancifully drawn avian or insect pollinators with human eyes hover around all the large, luscious blooms, as do one- or two-sentence comments that generally add cogent observations or insights: “All parts of the deadly nightshade plant contain poison. It has been used to poison famous emperors, kings and warriors throughout history.” (Confusingly for the audience, the accurate but limited assertion that bees “often visit blue or purple flowers” appears to be contradicted by an adjacent view of several zeroing in on a yellow toadflax.) Human figures, or, in one scene, hands, are depicted in a variety of sizes, shapes, and skin colors.

A floral fantasia for casual browsers as well as budding botanists. (glossary, index) (Informational picture book. 7-9)

Pub Date: May 5, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-500-65199-5

Page Count: 64

Publisher: Thames & Hudson

Review Posted Online: March 25, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2020

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The story feels a bit contrived, but Ada will be a welcome addition to the small circle of science-loving girls in the...


From the Ada Lace series , Vol. 1

Using science and technology, third-grader Ada Lace kicks off her new series by solving a mystery even with her leg in a cast.

Temporarily housebound after a badly executed bungee jump, Ada uses binoculars to document the ecosystem of her new neighborhood in San Francisco. She records her observations in a field journal, a project that intrigues new friend Nina, who lives nearby. When they see that Ms. Reed’s dog, Marguerite, is missing, they leap to the conclusion that it has been stolen. Nina does the legwork and Ada provides the technology for their search for the dognapper. Story-crafting takes a back seat to scene-setting in this series kickoff that introduces the major players. As part of the series formula, science topics and gadgetry are integrated into the stories and further explained in a “Behind the Science” afterword. This installment incorporates drones, a wireless camera, gecko gloves, and the Turing test as well as the concept of an ecosystem. There are no ethnic indicators in the text, but the illustrations reveal that Ada, her family, and bratty neighbor Milton are white; Nina appears to be Southeast Asian; and Mr. Peebles, an inventor who lives nearby, is black.

The story feels a bit contrived, but Ada will be a welcome addition to the small circle of science-loving girls in the chapter-book world. (Fiction. 7-9)

Pub Date: Aug. 29, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-4814-8599-9

Page Count: 128

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: May 24, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2017

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