Ditch the anemic story and nerd-pandering, but keep the nifty activity book.

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HELLO RUBY

ADVENTURES IN CODING

Originally a Kickstarter project, this chapter-book/workbook hybrid seeks to introduce programming to young readers.

Liukas, a programming-literacy advocate and a founder of Rails Girls, an international organization that offers programming workshops to young women, brings an extensive, impressive computer science background to her book. It opens with profiles of the cast of characters, which represent in-jokes about various computer systems, before starting with titular Ruby coloring in her room (and her drawings are a game for comp-sci–savvy parents, who will enjoy identifying the references). The childlike illustrations are serviceable, and the same can be said for the prose. The plot starts for real in the second chapter, when a postcard from her father sends Ruby on a scavenger hunt for five gems. Using logic-puzzle clues and a map, Ruby plots a course that takes her to each of the other characters, where she quickly solves problems to retrieve the gems—up until the last gem, which she decides not to even ask for, in a sudden, preachy, shoehorned message about friendship that fails to provide a satisfying story conclusion. While the story isn’t particularly successful, the second half of the book consists of exercises to encourage young programmers. The puzzles cover basic computer science tools and concepts with easy-to-follow examples (though the youngest readers may still need adult help), and they sometimes reference the story.

Ditch the anemic story and nerd-pandering, but keep the nifty activity book. (glossary) (Fiction/activity book. 5-8)

Pub Date: Oct. 6, 2015

ISBN: 978-1-250-06500-1

Page Count: 112

Publisher: Feiwel & Friends

Review Posted Online: Aug. 31, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2015

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Phoned-in illustrations keep this quick overview firmly planted on the launch pad.

THE BIG BEYOND

THE STORY OF SPACE TRAVEL

A capsule history of space exploration, from early stargazing to probes roaming the surface of Mars.

In loosely rhymed couplets Carter’s high-speed account zooms past the inventions of constellations, telescopes, and flying machines to the launches of Sputnik I, the “Saturn Five” (spelled out, probably, to facilitate the rhyme) that put men on the moon, and later probes. He caps it all with an enticing suggestion: “We’ll need an astronaut (or two)— / so what do you think? Could it be YOU?” Cushley lines up a notably diverse array of prospective young space travelers for this finish, but anachronistic earlier views of a dark-skinned astronaut floating in orbit opposite poetic references to the dogs, cats, and other animals sent into space in the 1950s and a model of the space shuttle on a shelf next to a line of viewers watching the televised moon landing in 1969 show no great regard for verisimilitude. Also, his full-page opening picture of the Challenger, its ports painted to look like a smiley face, just moments before it blew up is a decidedly odd choice to illustrate the poem’s opening countdown. As with his cosmological lyric Once upon a Star (2018, illustrated by Mar Hernández), the poet closes with a page of further facts arranged as an acrostic.

Phoned-in illustrations keep this quick overview firmly planted on the launch pad. (Informational picture book. 6-8)

Pub Date: April 1, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-68010-147-8

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Tiger Tales

Review Posted Online: Jan. 15, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2019

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It’s not the most dramatic version, but it’s a visually effective and serviceable addition to the rapidly growing shelf of...

THE FIRST MEN WHO WENT TO THE MOON

A 50th-anniversary commemoration of the epochal Apollo 11 mission.

Modeling her account on “The House That Jack Built” (an unspoken, appropriate nod to President John F. Kennedy’s foundational role in the enterprise), Greene takes Armstrong, Aldrin, and Collins from liftoff to post-splashdown ticker-tape parade. Side notes on some spreads and two pages of further facts with photographs at the end, all in smaller type, fill in select details about the mission and its historical context. The rhymed lines are fully cumulated only once, so there is some repetition but never enough to grow monotonous: “This is the Moon, a mysterious place, / a desolate land in the darkness of space, / far from Earth with oceans blue.” Also, the presentation of the text in just three or fewer lines per spread stretches out the narrative and gives Brundage latitude for both formal and informal group portraits of Apollo 11’s all-white crew, multiple glimpses of our planet and the moon at various heights, and, near the end, atmospheric (so to speak) views of the abandoned lander and boot prints in the lunar dust.

It’s not the most dramatic version, but it’s a visually effective and serviceable addition to the rapidly growing shelf of tributes to our space program’s high-water mark. (Informational picture book. 6-8)

Pub Date: March 15, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-58536-412-1

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Sleeping Bear Press

Review Posted Online: Jan. 15, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2019

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