Uniquely thought-provoking and important.

READ REVIEW

IF ELEPHANTS DISAPPEARED

The latest installment in Williams’ series shows how elephants’ survival affects the whole world.

African forest elephants are a “keystone species,” defined here as one whose “actions—from walking, to eating, to pooping, to sleeping—shape their environment.” The interaction between elephants and the complex ecosystem that makes up the tropical forest is explored, from how elephants shape their environment to how that environment would change without elephants, ending with how readers can help ensure they don’t disappear. As elephants walk thousands of miles through the forest, eating hundreds of pounds of plants each day and spreading their dung throughout the area, the undigested seeds in their dung are moved around, diversifying the ecosystem. But “poachers are killing elephants faster than they can reproduce.” If their dung disappeared, plant biodiversity would decrease, which would affect the animals and the forest soil—even the forest’s ability to survive. Standing in for readers, two black children in jeans and T-shirts enter the forest with a black adult, appear throughout the story, and, at the end, draw a “save the elephants” poster. The structure of Williams’ text keeps readers’ interest in this fascinating subject piqued, and she does a fine job explaining the science in lay terms. The artwork uses a palette of deep greens and browns to illustrate how these changes would alter the world.

Uniquely thought-provoking and important. (Informational picture book. 7-12)

Pub Date: Sept. 17, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-250-14320-4

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Roaring Brook

Review Posted Online: July 14, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2019

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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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A multilayered, endearing treasure of a day.

MY DAY WITH GONG GONG

Spending a day with Gong Gong doesn’t sound like very much fun to May.

Gong Gong doesn’t speak English, and May doesn’t know Chinese. How can they have a good day together? As they stroll through an urban Chinatown, May’s perpetually sanguine maternal grandfather chats with friends and visits shops. At each stop, Cantonese words fly back and forth, many clearly pointed at May, who understands none of it. It’s equally exasperating trying to communicate with Gong Gong in English, and by the time they join a card game in the park with Gong Gong’s friends, May is tired, hungry, and frustrated. But although it seems like Gong Gong hasn’t been attentive so far, when May’s day finally comes to a head, it is clear that he has. First-person text gives glimpses into May’s lively thoughts as they evolve through the day, and Gong Gong’s unchangingly jolly face reflects what could be mistaken for blithe obliviousness but is actually his way of showing love through sharing the people and places of his life. Through adorable illustrations that exude humor and warmth, this portrait of intergenerational affection is also a tribute to life in Chinatown neighborhoods: Street vendors, a busker playing a Chinese violin, a dim sum restaurant, and more all combine to add a distinctive texture. 

A multilayered, endearing treasure of a day. (glossary) (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: Sept. 8, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-77321-429-0

Page Count: 36

Publisher: Annick Press

Review Posted Online: June 30, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2020

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What better way to make natural history slide down easily? (index) (Nonfiction. 8-10)

GET THE SCOOP ON ANIMAL SNOT, SPIT & SLIME!

FROM SNAKE VENOM TO FISH SLIME, 251 COOL FACTS ABOUT MUCUS, SALIVA & MORE

Cusick floats a slick, select gallery of nature’s spitters, nose-pickers, oozers, and slimers—most but not all nonhuman—atop nourishing globs of scientific information.

Title notwithstanding, the book is limited just to mucus and saliva. Following introductory looks at the major components of each, Cusick describes their often similar uses in nature—in swallowing or expelling foreign matter, fighting disease, predation and defense, camouflage, travel, communication (“Aren’t you glad humans use words to communicate?”), home construction, nutrition, and more. All of this is presented in easily digestible observations placed among, and often referring to, color photos of slime-covered goby fish, a giraffe with its tongue up its nose, various drooling animals, including a white infant, and like photogenic subjects. Two simple experiments cater to hands-on types, but any readers who take delight in sentences like “Some fungus beetles eat snail slime mucus” come away both stimulated and informed.

What better way to make natural history slide down easily? (index) (Nonfiction. 8-10)

Pub Date: Dec. 15, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-63322-115-4

Page Count: 80

Publisher: Moondance/Quarto

Review Posted Online: Sept. 19, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2016

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