With a format that includes science, math, art, music and reading, it still manages to be what learning should be—fun.

READ REVIEW

OVER IN THE OCEAN

IN A CORAL REEF

This beautifully illustrated counting and singalong app version of the 2004 book introduces young readers to the creatures of the coral reef.

The original book is enhanced by simple, well-executed animations. With a touch or a jiggle, kids can send baby fish swimming, puffer fish puffing and squid squirting ink. After a one-by-one introduction to the featured coral-reef babies, from one octopus to 10 seahorses, a "Find the Babies" game brings them all back together for one final count. Backed by music and ocean sounds, the text is read or charmingly sung by the book's multitalented author, or readers can choose to read to themselves. True to the publisher's mission to connect children to nature, the app includes photographs and factual information about the sea life in the story. Additional pages introduce the author, illustrator, developer and publishers. Artist Canyon explains how she created the illustrations with polymer clay and tools from her kitchen in an accessible way that encourages children to create their own art projects. In fact, counting skills and science aside, her vibrant pictures of the coral-reef habitat are enough to make this app appealing to readers of all ages.

With a format that includes science, math, art, music and reading, it still manages to be what learning should be—fun. (iPad informational app. 4-8)

Pub Date: March 16, 2012

ISBN: N/A

Page Count: -

Publisher: Dawn Publications

Review Posted Online: May 9, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2012

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As insubstantial as hot air.

THE WORLD NEEDS WHO YOU WERE MADE TO BE

A diverse cast of children first makes a fleet of hot air balloons and then takes to the sky in them.

Lifestyle maven Gaines uses this activity as a platform to celebrate diversity in learning and working styles. Some people like to work together; others prefer a solo process. Some take pains to plan extensively; others know exactly what they want and jump right in. Some apply science; others demonstrate artistic prowess. But “see how beautiful it can be when / our differences share the same sky?” Double-page spreads leading up to this moment of liftoff are laid out such that rhyming abcb quatrains typically contain one or two opposing concepts: “Some of us are teachers / and share what we know. / But all of us are learners. / Together is how we grow!” In the accompanying illustration, a bespectacled, Asian-presenting child at a blackboard lectures the other children on “balloon safety.” Gaines’ text has the ring of sincerity, but the sentiment is hardly an original one, and her verse frequently sacrifices scansion for rhyme. Sometimes it abandons both: “We may not look / or work or think the same, / but we all have an / important part to play.” Swaney’s delicate, pastel-hued illustrations do little to expand on the text, but they are pretty. (This book was reviewed digitally with 11.2-by-18.6-inch double-page spreads viewed at 70.7% of actual size.)

As insubstantial as hot air. (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: Nov. 10, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-4003-1423-2

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Tommy Nelson

Review Posted Online: Jan. 19, 2021

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Spires’ understanding of the fragility and power of the artistic impulse mixes with expert pacing and subtle...

THE MOST MAGNIFICENT THING

Making things is difficult work. Readers will recognize the stages of this young heroine’s experience as she struggles to realize her vision.

First comes anticipation. The artist/engineer is spotted jauntily pulling a wagonload of junkyard treasures. Accompanied by her trusty canine companion, she begins drawing plans and building an assemblage. The narration has a breezy tone: “[S]he makes things all the time. Easy-peasy!” The colorful caricatures and creations contrast with the digital black outlines on a white background that depict an urban neighborhood. Intermittent blue-gray panels break up the white expanses on selected pages showing sequential actions. When the first piece doesn’t turn out as desired, the protagonist tries again, hoping to achieve magnificence. A model of persistence, she tries many adjustments; the vocabulary alone offers constructive behaviors: she “tinkers,” “wrenches,” “fiddles,” “examines,” “stares” and “tweaks.” Such hard work, however, combines with disappointing results, eventually leading to frustration, anger and injury. Explosive emotions are followed by defeat, portrayed with a small font and scaled-down figures. When the dog, whose expressions have humorously mirrored his owner’s through each phase, retrieves his leash, the resulting stroll serves them well. A fresh perspective brings renewed enthusiasm and—spoiler alert—a most magnificent scooter sidecar for a loyal assistant.

Spires’ understanding of the fragility and power of the artistic impulse mixes with expert pacing and subtle characterization for maximum delight. (Picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: April 1, 2014

ISBN: 978-1-55453-704-4

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Kids Can

Review Posted Online: Feb. 26, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2014

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