Engaging and information rich, this is wonderfully well woven.

SPI-KU

A CLUTTER OF SHORT VERSE ON EIGHT LEGS

A celebration of spiders in poetry and prose.

The team that produced Superlative Birds (2019) and other highly regarded science poetry collections has selected 35 from the more than 48,000 species to introduce the order Araneae—spiders. An opening poem concludes, “Let’s spy spiders!” and that’s what follows. An early spread shows and tells readers what distinguishes spiders from other arachnids. The text is organized topically, covering special spider abilities (like silk spinning), sensory mechanisms, and a wide variety of behaviors including locomotion, capturing prey, eating, courting, and child care. Some spider predators and a few species that live socially are also introduced. Each spread includes the topic, a few paragraphs of exposition, and one to three cheerfully illustrated poems describing particular species or behaviors. As always, Bulion uses both evocative vocabulary and a variety of poetic forms; these are chosen with care and defined in the backmatter. The peacock spider, which raises a colorful flap in a courtship dance, is celebrated with a “Hoe-Down,” recalling a traditional song: “Spider gal, won’t you signal you’re mine, / And we’ll dance by the light of the sun!” The golden silk orbweaver gets a haiku: “sun-shimmer silk / calls six-legged web guests— / dinner!” The impressive backmatter also includes identification, with scientific names, for every spider shown; instructions for spider hunting; and relative sizes gauged against a familiar No. 2 pencil.

Engaging and information rich, this is wonderfully well woven. (glossary, resources, acknowledgments) (Informational poetry. 7-12)

Pub Date: March 1, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-68263-192-8

Page Count: 48

Publisher: Peachtree

Review Posted Online: Dec. 25, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2021

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An immersive dunk into a vast subject—and on course for shorter attention spans.

EVERYTHING AWESOME ABOUT SHARKS AND OTHER UNDERWATER CREATURES!

In the wake of Everything Awesome About Dinosaurs and Other Prehistoric Beasts! (2019), Lowery spins out likewise frothy arrays of facts and observations about sharks, whales, giant squid, and smaller but no less extreme (or at least extremely interesting) sea life.

He provides plenty of value-added features, from overviews of oceanic zones and environments to jokes, drawing instructions, and portrait galleries suitable for copying or review. While not one to pass up any opportunity to, for instance, characterize ambergris as “whale vomit perfume” or the clownfish’s protective coating as “snot armor,” he also systematically introduces members of each of the eight orders of sharks, devotes most of a page to the shark’s electroreceptive ampullae of Lorenzini, and even sheds light on the unobvious differences between jellyfish and the Portuguese man-of-war or the reason why the blue octopus is said to have “arms” rather than “tentacles.” He also argues persuasively that sharks have gotten a bad rap (claiming that more people are killed each year by…vending machines) and closes with pleas to be concerned about plastic waste, to get involved in conservation efforts, and (cannily) to get out and explore our planet because (quoting Jacques-Yves Cousteau) “People protect what they love.” Human figures, some with brown skin, pop up occasionally to comment in the saturated color illustrations. (This book was reviewed digitally with 10-by-17-inch double-page spreads viewed at 45% of actual size.)

An immersive dunk into a vast subject—and on course for shorter attention spans. (bibliography, list of organizations) (Nonfiction. 7-10)

Pub Date: Oct. 6, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-338-35973-2

Page Count: 128

Publisher: Orchard/Scholastic

Review Posted Online: June 30, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2020

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Pretty but insubstantial.

THE BIG BOOK OF BIRDS

Zommer surveys various bird species from around the world in this oversized (almost 14 inches tall tall) volume.

While exuberantly presented, the information is not uniformly expressed from bird to bird, which in the best cases will lead readers to seek out additional information and in the worst cases will lead to frustration. For example, on spreads that feature multiple species, the birds are not labeled. This happens again later when the author presents facts about eggs: Readers learn about camouflaged eggs, but the specific eggs are not identified, making further study extremely difficult. Other facts are misleading: A spread on “city birds” informs readers that “peregrine falcons nest on skyscrapers in New York City”—but they also nest in other large cities. In a sexist note, a peahen is identified as “unlucky” because she “has drab brown feathers” instead of flashy ones like the peacock’s. Illustrations are colorful and mostly identifiable but stylized; Zommer depicts his birds with both eyes visible at all times, even when the bird is in profile. The primary audience for the book appears to be British, as some spreads focus on European birds over their North American counterparts, such as the mute swan versus the trumpeter swan and the European robin versus the American robin. The backmatter, a seven-word glossary and an index, doesn’t provide readers with much support.

Pretty but insubstantial. (Nonfiction. 8-12)

Pub Date: June 4, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-500-65151-3

Page Count: 64

Publisher: Thames & Hudson

Review Posted Online: April 14, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2019

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