Engaging and information rich, this is wonderfully well woven.



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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Friends of these pollinators will be best served elsewhere.

1001 BEES

This book is buzzing with trivia.

Follow a swarm of bees as they leave a beekeeper’s apiary in search of a new home. As the scout bees traverse the fields, readers are provided with a potpourri of facts and statements about bees. The information is scattered—much like the scout bees—and as a result, both the nominal plot and informational content are tissue-thin. There are some interesting facts throughout the book, but many pieces of trivia are too, well trivial, to prove useful. For example, as the bees travel, readers learn that “onion flowers are round and fluffy” and “fennel is a plant that is used in cooking.” Other facts are oversimplified and as a result are not accurate. For example, monofloral honey is defined as “made by bees who visit just one kind of flower” with no acknowledgment of the fact that bees may range widely, and swarm activity is described as a springtime event, when it can also occur in summer and early fall. The information in the book, such as species identification and measurement units, is directed toward British readers. The flat, thin-lined artwork does little to enhance the story, but an “I spy” game challenging readers to find a specific bee throughout is amusing.

Friends of these pollinators will be best served elsewhere. (Informational picture book. 8-10)

Pub Date: May 18, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-500-65265-7

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Thames & Hudson

Review Posted Online: April 14, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2021

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Pretty but insubstantial.


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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