TRAINS

A celebration more than a complete chronicle, this beautifully illustrated volume offers a personal and affectionate look at the place of the railroad in history. Beginning with the impact of trains on his home town of High Point, N.C., Curlee looks backward to the invention of the locomotive in England, describes the constant improvements made by various engineers and weighs the impact of the increasing use of trains to transport freight and people across the countryside. He notes in particular that railroads supported the expansion of the United States and the fulfillment of our “manifest destiny.” His overview, couched in sophisticated language, doesn’t confine itself to the past; refreshingly, the author proposes a viable future for this transformative transportation technology. Stylized paintings in mostly muted colors offer varying perspectives, from a man and child dwarfed by a huge, sleek engine to the mercifully abstract depiction of a fiery calamity. Labeled diagrams supplement the text and provide additional information. Sure to fascinate existing enthusiasts, this elegant survey will likely also create some new fans. (bibliography) (Nonfiction. 8-12)

Pub Date: May 15, 2009

ISBN: 978-1-4169-4848-3

Page Count: 48

Publisher: Atheneum

Review Posted Online: June 24, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2009

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Charming, poignant, and thoughtfully woven.

CLUES TO THE UNIVERSE

An aspiring scientist and a budding artist become friends and help each other with dream projects.

Unfolding in mid-1980s Sacramento, California, this story stars 12-year-olds Rosalind and Benjamin as first-person narrators in alternating chapters. Ro’s father, a fellow space buff, was killed by a drunk driver; the rocket they were working on together lies unfinished in her closet. As for Benji, not only has his best friend, Amir, moved away, but the comic book holding the clue for locating his dad is also missing. Along with their profound personal losses, the protagonists share a fixation with the universe’s intriguing potential: Ro decides to complete the rocket and hopes to launch mementos of her father into outer space while Benji’s conviction that aliens and UFOs are real compels his imagination and creativity as an artist. An accident in science class triggers a chain of events forcing Benji and Ro, who is new to the school, to interact and unintentionally learn each other’s secrets. They resolve to find Benji’s dad—a famous comic-book artist—and partner to finish Ro’s rocket for the science fair. Together, they overcome technical, scheduling, and geographical challenges. Readers will be drawn in by amusing and fantastical elements in the comic book theme, high emotional stakes that arouse sympathy, and well-drawn character development as the protagonists navigate life lessons around grief, patience, self-advocacy, and standing up for others. Ro is biracial (Chinese/White); Benji is White.

Charming, poignant, and thoughtfully woven. (Fiction. 9-12)

Pub Date: Jan. 12, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-06-300888-5

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Quill Tree Books/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Oct. 27, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2020

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WEATHER

Remarking that ``nothing about the weather is very simple,'' Simon goes on to describe how the sun, atmosphere, earth's rotation, ground cover, altitude, pollution, and other factors influence it; briefly, he also tells how weather balloons gather information. Even for this outstanding author, it's a tough, complex topic, and he's not entirely successful in simplifying it; moreover, the import of the striking uncaptioned color photos here isn't always clear. One passage—``Cumulus clouds sometimes build up into towering masses called cumulus congestus, or swelling cumulus, which may turn into cumulonimbus clouds''—is superimposed on a blue-gray, cloud-covered landscape. But which kind of clouds are these? Another photo, in blue-black and white, shows what might be precipitation in the upper atmosphere, or rain falling on a darkened landscape, or...? Generally competent and certainly attractive, but not Simon's best. (Nonfiction. 10-12)

Pub Date: Aug. 1, 1993

ISBN: 0-688-10546-7

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Morrow/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 1993

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