BEATRIX POTTER, SCIENTIST

From the She Made History series

An unusual combination of women’s history and science that shows not all questions can be answered.

The scientific passions of a beloved children’s-book creator.

Beatrix Potter is revered for her classic children’s tales, but many will be unaware of her love of science. Soft, smudged pictures in Potter’s palette accompany informative prose infused with a childlike wonder at the natural world, and together they depict young Beatrix’s fascination with the landscape of Scotland, various animals, and, later, the study of mushrooms. Unsupported by her family, largely self-educated, and armed with microscope, paper, and pencil, Potter works with Scottish naturalist Charles McIntosh for years, exchanging samples and artwork until she is among the first to sprout spores in Britain. Initially rejected due to sexism, Beatrix struggles to make her findings known through a male colleague, is told that more work is required, and then mysteriously ceases her work. “What makes her stop? Does she suspect she will never be taken seriously as a scientist? Does she begin to doubt herself? Like pages ripped from a book, history holds those secrets,” the text wonders. While Peter Rabbit and company might never have come into being had Potter not switched her focus, readers and listeners will see how the ambitions of a budding woman scientist were effectively quashed, perhaps leading them to object to the unfairness of her treatment and to wonder what other discoveries go unmentioned due to inequality. All characters are White.

An unusual combination of women’s history and science that shows not all questions can be answered. (biographical note, timeline, acknowledgments, bibliography, source notes, further reading) (Picture book/biography. 6-10)

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-8075-5175-2

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Whitman

Review Posted Online: June 29, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2020

1001 BEES

Friends of these pollinators will be best served elsewhere.

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 13, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2021

BUTT OR FACE?

A gleeful game for budding naturalists.

Artfully cropped animal portraits challenge viewers to guess which end they’re seeing.

In what will be a crowd-pleasing and inevitably raucous guessing game, a series of close-up stock photos invite children to call out one of the titular alternatives. A page turn reveals answers and basic facts about each creature backed up by more of the latter in a closing map and table. Some of the posers, like the tail of an okapi or the nose on a proboscis monkey, are easy enough to guess—but the moist nose on a star-nosed mole really does look like an anus, and the false “eyes” on the hind ends of a Cuyaba dwarf frog and a Promethea moth caterpillar will fool many. Better yet, Lavelle saves a kicker for the finale with a glimpse of a small parasitical pearlfish peeking out of a sea cucumber’s rear so that the answer is actually face and butt. “Animal identification can be tricky!” she concludes, noting that many of the features here function as defenses against attack: “In the animal world, sometimes your butt will save your face and your face just might save your butt!” (This book was reviewed digitally.)

A gleeful game for budding naturalists. (author’s note) (Informational picture book. 6-8)

Pub Date: July 11, 2023

ISBN: 9781728271170

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Sourcebooks eXplore

Review Posted Online: May 9, 2023

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2023

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