Good fun wrapped in a cracking piece of characterization and history.

THE $25,000 FLIGHT

A dramatic telling of Lindbergh’s flight from New York City to Paris, France.

Houran conveys readers to a time when flying was still a daredevil activity and aces such as René Fonck were international celebrities. Flying contests were common in the 1920s, and as the planes got better, so did the prizes. The Orteig Prize, named after a New York City hotelier who set the challenge, would pay $25,000 to the first flyer to make a nonstop journey from New York City to Paris. Lindbergh was a stuntman and a barnstormer before he decided to take a shot at the challenge. One of the beauties of Houran’s reconstruction of the event is that it brings Lindbergh’s feat into focus: He was not the first to fly across the Atlantic; he did not fly on a wing and a prayer but planned extensively; a number of other, more famous flyers were in the race, including Fonck and Richard E. Byrd, who had recently flown to the North Pole. She also tips her hat to Lindbergh’s tactical wizardry and keeps the tale not just at a high pitch (“He buckled his safety belt. He pulled on his flying helmet. He fit his goggles over his eyes”), but in a lather: “LINDBERGH! the crowd cried....The crowd lifted him above their heads. They bounced him along like a beach ball!”

Good fun wrapped in a cracking piece of characterization and history. (Nonfiction. 6-9)

Pub Date: Sept. 23, 2014

ISBN: 978-0-385-38284-7

Page Count: 112

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: July 29, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2014

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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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A refreshing dive past some of our world’s marine wonders.

THE BIG BOOK OF THE BLUE

Denizens of the deep crowd oversized pages in this populous gallery of ocean life.

The finny and tentacled sea creatures drifting or arrowing through Zommer’s teeming watercolor seascapes are generally recognizable, and they are livened rather than distorted by the artist’s tendency to place human eyes on the same side of many faces, Picasso-like. Headers such as “Ink-teresting” or “In for the krill” likewise add a playful tone to the pithy comments on anatomical features or behavioral quirks that accompany the figures (which include, though rarely, a white human diver). The topical spreads begin with an overview of ocean families (“Some are hairy, some have scales, some have fins and some are boneless and brainless!”), go on to introduce select animals in no particular order from sea horses and dragonets to penguins and pufferfish, then close with cautionary remarks on chemical pollution and floating plastic. The author invites readers as they go to find both answers to such questions as “Why does a crab run sideways?” and also a small sardine hidden in some, but not all, of the pictures. For the latter he provides a visual key at the end, followed by a basic glossary.

A refreshing dive past some of our world’s marine wonders. (index) (Informational picture book. 6-9)

Pub Date: June 5, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-500-65119-3

Page Count: 64

Publisher: Thames & Hudson

Review Posted Online: April 25, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2018

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