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

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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Engaging, well-chosen images and a clear, coherent text illuminate the importance of empathy for the world’s inhabitants.

A WORLD TOGETHER

Large color photographs (occasionally composed of montages) and accessible, simple text highlight global similarities and differences, always focusing on our universal connections.

While child readers may not recognize Manzano, the Puerto Rican actress who played Maria on Sesame Street, adults will recognize her as a trusted diverse voice. In her endnote, she explains her desire to “encourage lively conversations about shared experiences.” Starting out with the familiar, home and community, the text begins with “How many WONDERFUL PEOPLE do you know?” Then it moves out to the world: “Did you know there are about 8 BILLION PEOPLE on the planet?” The photo essay features the usual concrete similarities and differences found in many books of this type, such as housing (a Mongolian yurt opposite a Hong Kong apartment building overlooking a basketball court), food (dumplings, pizza, cotton candy, a churro, etc.), and school. Manzano also makes sure to point out likenesses in emotions, as shown in a montage of photos from countries including China, Spain, Kashmir (Pakistan/India), and the United States. At the end, a world map and thumbnail images show the locations of all photos, revealing a preponderance of examples from the U.S. and a slight underrepresentation for Africa and South America.

Engaging, well-chosen images and a clear, coherent text illuminate the importance of empathy for the world’s inhabitants. (Informational picture book. 5-8)

Pub Date: Sept. 15, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-4263-3738-3

Page Count: 32

Publisher: National Geographic Kids

Review Posted Online: May 3, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2020

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A good overview of this complex, essential organ, with an energetic seasoning of silliness.

THE BRAIN IS KIND OF A BIG DEAL

An introduction to the lead guitar and vocalist for the Brainiacs—the human brain.

The brain (familiar to readers of Seluk’s “The Awkward Yeti” webcomic, which spun off the adult title Heart and Brain, 2015) looks like a dodgeball with arms and legs—pinkish, sturdy, and roundish, with a pair of square-framed spectacles bestowing an air of importance and hipness. Other organs of the body—tongue, lungs, stomach, muscle, and heart—are featured as members of the brain’s rock band (the verso of the dust jacket is a poster of the band). Seluk’s breezy, conversational prose and brightly colored, boldly outlined cartoon illustrations deliver basic information. The brain’s role in keeping the heart beating and other automatic functions, directing body movements, interpreting sights and sounds, remembering smells and tastes, and regulating sleep and hunger are all explained, prose augmented by dialogue balloons and information sidebars. Seluk points out, importantly, that feelings originate in the brain: “You can control how you react…but your feelings happen no matter what.” The parodied album covers on the front endpapers (including the Beatles, Pink Floyd, Green Day, Run DMC, Queen, Nirvana) will amuse parents—or at least grandparents—and the rear endpapers serve up band members’ clever social media and texting screenshots. Backmatter includes a glossary and further brain trivia but no resources or bibliography.

A good overview of this complex, essential organ, with an energetic seasoning of silliness. (Informational picture book. 6-8)

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-338-16700-9

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Orchard/Scholastic

Review Posted Online: June 23, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2019

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