An exciting tale in its own right, this biography should prime readers for the original.

MARY WHO WROTE FRANKENSTEIN

One of a cluster of books celebrating the 200th anniversary of the publication of Frankenstein.

This picture book focuses on Mary’s solitary childhood, in which she wanders alone through city streets, cultivating her daydreams, or “castles in the air,” which provided the initial inspiration for her novels. She is influenced by the writings of her mother, Mary Wollstonecraft, whose grave she visits, and by her intellectual but severe father. She is introduced to the intelligentsia of London and hears Coleridge reciting The Rime of the Ancient Mariner, a poem she will never forget. Stifled at home, Mary elopes with the poet Shelley; her stepsister Claire goes along. Their travels in Europe take them past Castle Frankenstein, the inspiration for Mary’s famous novel. One wild and stormy night, the three friends meet with the poet Byron and his writer friend John Polidori at Byron’s villa beside Lake Geneva. Byron makes his famous proposal that each should write a ghost story. This challenge and Mary’s introduction to science, particularly galvanism, are the inspirations for Mary’s famous monster. Bailey’s text features clipped, short sentences and presents carefully chosen details children will understand. Sardà’s watercolor-and-digital illustrations are dark and stormy and perfectly suited to the mood of the story. The many decorative details, reminiscent of 18th-century gravestone designs, will fascinate children, and the gaunt, Gorey-like, grave-pallid figures will send chills down the spine.

An exciting tale in its own right, this biography should prime readers for the original. (Picture book/biography. 6-10)

Pub Date: Aug. 28, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-77049-559-3

Page Count: 56

Publisher: Tundra Books

Review Posted Online: June 11, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2018

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A lovely encouragement to young writers to persist.

HOW TO WRITE A STORY

This follow-up to How To Read a Story (2005) shows a child going through the steps of creating a story, from choosing an idea through sharing with friends.

A young black child lies in a grassy field writing in a journal, working on “Step 1 / Search for an Idea— / a shiny one.” During a walk to the library, various ideas float in colorful thought bubbles, with exclamation points: “playing soccer! / dogs!” Inside the library, less-distinct ideas, expressed as shapes and pictures, with question marks, float about as the writer collects ideas to choose from. The young writer must then choose a setting, a main character, and a problem for that protagonist. Plotting, writing with detail, and revising are described in child-friendly terms and shown visually, in the form of lists and notes on faux pieces of paper. Finally, the writer sits in the same field, in a new season, sharing the story with friends. The illustrations feature the child’s writing and drawing as well as images of imagined events from the book in progress bursting off the page. The child’s main character is an adventurous mermaid who looks just like the child, complete with afro-puff pigtails, representing an affirming message about writing oneself into the world. The child’s family, depicted as black, moves in the background of the setting, which is also populated by a multiracial cast.

A lovely encouragement to young writers to persist. (Informational picture book. 6-10)

Pub Date: July 7, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-4521-5666-8

Page Count: 36

Publisher: Chronicle Books

Review Posted Online: March 29, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2020

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Energetic enough to carry younger rocketeers off the launch pad if not into a very high orbit.

PROFESSOR ASTRO CAT'S SPACE ROCKETS

From the Professor Astro Cat series

The bubble-helmeted feline explains what rockets do and the role they have played in sending people (and animals) into space.

Addressing a somewhat younger audience than in previous outings (Professor Astro Cat’s Frontiers of Space, 2013, etc.), Astro Cat dispenses with all but a light shower of “factoroids” to describe how rockets work. A highly selective “History of Space Travel” follows—beginning with a crew of fruit flies sent aloft in 1947, later the dog Laika (her dismal fate left unmentioned), and the human Yuri Gagarin. Then it’s on to Apollo 11 in 1969; the space shuttles Discovery, Columbia, and Challenger (the fates of the latter two likewise elided); the promise of NASA’s next-gen Orion and the Space Launch System; and finally vague closing references to other rockets in the works for local tourism and, eventually, interstellar travel. In the illustrations the spacesuited professor, joined by a mouse and cat in similar dress, do little except float in space and point at things. Still, the art has a stylish retro look, and portraits of Sally Ride and Guion Bluford diversify an otherwise all-white, all-male astronaut corps posing heroically or riding blocky, geometric spacecraft across starry reaches.

Energetic enough to carry younger rocketeers off the launch pad if not into a very high orbit. (glossary) (Informational picture book. 6-8)

Pub Date: Sept. 4, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-911171-55-3

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Flying Eye Books

Review Posted Online: July 16, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2018

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