Dedicating her newest offering to Leonardo da Vinci, “My special hero of invention,” Williams sweeps through the entire history of inventions, from ball (“an unknown Stone Age child, c. 40,000 B.C.”) to ball-point (Ladislao Biro, 1938). Framing sequential comic book–style panels in banter and bits of fact delivered by a flock of birds, she highlights 11 important figures, adding spreads devoted to women, to “Inventors of Useful Things” and in closing, to several dozen favorites, including such modern necessities as the chocolate bar (François Louis Cailler, 1819) and the self-cleaning house (Frances Gabe, 1950). She’s not much for depth of detail, but her brightly colored cartoons, crowded with tiny, expressively drawn figures, create an irresistibly celebratory tone, and by pairing familiar names with lesser-known but no less deserving precursors—Richard Trevithick with George Stephenson, Antonio Meucci with Alexander Graham Bell—she counters the more simplistic accounts common in other titles. An exuberant alternative to Judith St. George’s skimpier but more analytical So You Want to Be an Inventor (2002), illus by David Small. (index) (Picture book/nonfiction. 7-9)

Pub Date: Nov. 1, 2005

ISBN: 0-7636-2760-7

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Candlewick

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2005

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            The legions of fans who over the years have enjoyed dePaola’s autobiographical picture books will welcome this longer gathering of reminiscences.  Writing in an authentically childlike voice, he describes watching the new house his father was building go up despite a succession of disasters, from a brush fire to the hurricane of 1938.  Meanwhile, he also introduces family, friends, and neighbors, adds Nana Fall River to his already well-known Nana Upstairs and Nana Downstairs, remembers his first day of school (“ ‘ When do we learn to read?’  I asked.  ‘Oh, we don’t learn how to read in kindergarten.  We learn to read next year, in first grade.’  ‘Fine,’ I said.  ‘I’ll be back next year.’  And I walked right out of school.”), recalls holidays, and explains his indignation when the plot of Disney’s “Snow White” doesn’t match the story he knows.  Generously illustrated with vignettes and larger scenes, this cheery, well-knit narrative proves that an old dog can learn new tricks, and learn them surpassingly well.  (Autobiography.  7-9)

Pub Date: April 1, 1999

ISBN: 0-399-23246-X

Page Count: 58

Publisher: Putnam

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 1999

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Who is next in the ocean food chain? Pallotta has a surprising answer in this picture book glimpse of one curious boy. Danny, fascinated by plankton, takes his dory and rows out into the ocean, where he sees shrimp eating those plankton, fish sand eels eating shrimp, mackerel eating fish sand eels, bluefish chasing mackerel, tuna after bluefish, and killer whales after tuna. When an enormous humpbacked whale arrives on the scene, Danny’s dory tips over and he has to swim for a large rock or become—he worries’someone’s lunch. Surreal acrylic illustrations in vivid blues and red extend the story of a small boy, a small boat, and a vast ocean, in which the laws of the food chain are paramount. That the boy has been bathtub-bound during this entire imaginative foray doesn’t diminish the suspense, and the facts Pallotta presents are solidly researched. A charming fish tale about the one—the boy—that got away. (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: Feb. 1, 2000

ISBN: 0-88106-075-5

Page Count: 32

Publisher: N/A

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2000

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