An almost savory assemblage that’s spoiled by too many stale ingredients.

READ REVIEW

THE BIG EARTH BOOK

From the Lonely Planet Kids series

A view of our planet and our place on it in terms of the four classical elements: earth, air, fire, and water.

It’s not a very strong conceit—showing strain almost immediately as the “Earth” section begins with the observation that 30 percent of our “rocky” home is actually oxygen—but for each of the four elements the author offers 29 double-page–spread introductions to a wide array of at least indirectly related topics. These range from surveys of the Earth’s hot interior and changing surface to the origins of life and of such technological wonders as cast-iron stoves as well as the golden ages both of exploration and of piracy, types of waterfalls, major historical fires, and what it might be like to live underwater. The authors add crunchy bits to this browser’s banquet by giving Gustav Whitehead pride of place over the Wright brothers as the first to fly, including the recently discovered Hamza (which flows more than two miles beneath the Amazon) in their tally of big rivers, and other surprises. Still, along with underseasoned elements including a reference to “the freezing part of the outer solar system” and a timeline point quaintly labeled “Man evolves,” Brake’s claim that in the wake of Columbus “people who’d never met due to being separated by the seas could now interact just as we all do today!” introduces, to say the least, a historically disingenuous sour note. Likewise less-than-palatable are Kearney’s cartoon renditions of pirates, ancient and prehistoric people, and modern figures as, with only rare exceptions (and those mostly in the occasional photos), white—one notable exception is a group of Navajo fire dancers portrayed as identical brown lads in loincloths.

An almost savory assemblage that’s spoiled by too many stale ingredients. (index, annotated bibliography) (Nonfiction. 10-13)

Pub Date: Nov. 21, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-78701-278-3

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Lonely Planet

Review Posted Online: Nov. 14, 2017

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A coherent if unexceptional overview of the subject given a solid boost by the visuals.

EXPLORING SPACE

FROM GALILEO TO THE MARS ROVER AND BEYOND

Finely detailed cutaway views of spacecraft and satellites launch a broad account of space exploration’s past, present, and near future.

Jenkins begins with the journey of Voyager I, currently the “most distant man-made object ever,” then goes back to recap the history of astronomy, the space race, and the space-shuttle program. He goes on to survey major interplanetary probes and the proliferating swarm of near-Earth satellites, then closes with reflections on our current revived interest in visiting Mars and a brief mention of a proposed “space elevator.” This is all familiar territory, at least to well-read young skywatchers and would-be astronauts, and despite occasional wry observations (“For longer stays [in space], things to consider include staying fit and healthy, keeping clean, and not going insane”) it reads more like a digest than a vivid, ongoing story. Biesty’s eye for exact, precise detail is well in evidence in the illustrations, though, and if one spread of generic residents of the International Space Station is the only place his human figures aren’t all white and male, at least he offers riveting depictions of space gear and craft with every last scientific instrument and structural element visible and labeled.

A coherent if unexceptional overview of the subject given a solid boost by the visuals. (index, timeline, bibliography) (Nonfiction. 10-13)

Pub Date: June 13, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-7636-8931-5

Page Count: 64

Publisher: Candlewick

Review Posted Online: March 6, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2017

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Enlightening, if not always easily legible, ruminations on the value of being in the dark.

DARK MATTERS

NATURE'S REACTION TO LIGHT POLLUTION

Reflections on the ways that artificial light upsets patterns and behaviors in the natural world.

Galat (Stories of the Aurora,2016, etc.) spins childhood memories into semifictive reminiscences. Between recalling lying on her back in the snow at 10 to trace the Big Dipper and describing links between light pollution and several environmental issues as a grown-up naturalist, the author recalls camping trips and other excursions at various ages. These offer, at least tangentially, insights into how artificial lighting could affect nocturnal insects, sea turtle hatchlings, bats, and migratory birds, as well as the general hunting, mating, and nesting behaviors of animals. She closes, after a quick mention of scotobiology (the study of life in darkness), with a plea to turn off the lights whenever possible. Though she does not support this general appeal with specific practices or, for that matter, source notes for her information, she does offer a list of internet search terms for readers who want to explore the topic further. Despite illustrations that range from a close-up of a road-kill raccoon to pointless filler and passages that, paradoxically, are hard to read except in bright light because they’re printed over speckled fields of stars, this outing covers a topic that should be of interest to young stargazers and scotobiologists alike.

Enlightening, if not always easily legible, ruminations on the value of being in the dark. (Nonfiction. 10-13)

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-88995-515-8

Page Count: 72

Publisher: Red Deer Press

Review Posted Online: May 24, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2017

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