A fascinating subject related with passion—but also with poor organization.

READ REVIEW

ORCAS EVERYWHERE

THE MYSTERY AND HISTORY OF KILLER WHALES

Leiren-Young explores basic facts about orcas as well as the sobering history of continued human maltreatment of these whales.

The documentary filmmaker (The Hundred-Year-Old Whale) shares his extensive knowledge of orca culture and history with plentiful photographs. The book is approachable, the design maintaining a nice balance of text to sidebar to photograph. It is visually consistent: All callouts are called “Orca Bites,” photographs are labeled clearly, and chapters are designed similarly. The biggest struggle for readers is making sense of the order in which information is presented. A very helpful section about the different types of orcas with an illustrated guide doesn’t appear until Chapter 15, for example, even though several of those different ecotypes (classification of orcas into different species has proven difficult, hence the term) are referred to prior. Some of the “Orca Bites” are not aligned with their relevant photographs or are otherwise distracting. The narrative dips in and out of first person, which makes for an unbalanced tone. Disappointingly, Leiren-Young takes liberties by explaining what historical figures thought and felt without any direct citations or quotations. Readers should be prepared for the (rightfully included) gruesome and upsetting history of human treatment of whales. It’s a call to action for animal rights even if, as nonfiction, it’s uneven.

A fascinating subject related with passion—but also with poor organization. (glossary, resources, acknowledgements, index) (Nonfiction. 9-12)

Pub Date: Sept. 3, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-4598-1998-6

Page Count: 160

Publisher: Orca

Review Posted Online: June 25, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2019

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The photos effectively convey the scope of Harvey’s impact, but while journalistically sound, this informative book doesn’t...

HURRICANE HARVEY

DISASTER IN TEXAS AND BEYOND

The devastation of 2017’s Hurricane Harvey is explained, from the storm’s origin to its ongoing aftermath, in this photo-heavy book.

In retelling the story of how a storm got so big it caused 82 deaths and billions of dollars in damage along the Texas coast, Minneapolis-based author Felix details the science of hurricanes for those unfamiliar and unpacks why this and a series of other hurricanes made for one of the most damaging weather years on record. Although it’s packed with info-boxes, a glossary, tips for safety during a hurricane and helping survivors afterward, a snapshot of five other historic hurricanes, and well-curated photos, it misses an opportunity to convey some of the emotion and pain victims endured and continue to feel. Instead, much of the text feels like a summation of news reports, an efficient attempt to answer the whys of Hurricane Harvey, with only a few direct quotations. Readers learn about Virgil Smith, a Dickinson, Texas, teen who rescued others from floodwaters with an air mattress, but the information is secondhand. The book does answer, clearly and concisely, questions a kid might have about a hurricane, such as what happens to animals at the zoo in such an emergency and how a tropical storm forms in the first place. A portion of the book’s proceeds are to be donated to the Texas Library Association’s Disaster Relief Fund.

The photos effectively convey the scope of Harvey’s impact, but while journalistically sound, this informative book doesn’t capture the fear and shock those who lived through the hurricane must have felt. (Nonfiction. 9-10)

Pub Date: Feb. 1, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-5415-2888-8

Page Count: 36

Publisher: Millbrook/Lerner

Review Posted Online: March 19, 2018

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A detail-rich picture book best for readers who enjoy nonfiction and are interested in history or science.

COUNTING THE STARS

THE STORY OF KATHERINE JOHNSON, NASA MATHEMATICIAN

This biography of renowned mathematician Katherine Johnson featuring illustrations by Colón aims for elementary-age readers.

Cline-Ransome (Finding Langston, 2018, etc.) traces Johnson’s love of math, curiosity about the world, and studiousness from her early entry to school through her help sending a man into space as a human computer at NASA. The text is detailed and lengthy, between one and four paragraphs of fairly small text on each spread. Many biographies of black achievers during segregation focus on society’s limits and the subject’s determination to reach beyond them. This book takes a subtler approach, mentioning segregation only once (at her new work assignment, “she ignored the stares and the COLORED GIRLS signs on the bathroom door and the segregated cafeteria”) and the glass ceiling for women twice in a factual tone as potential obstacles that did not stop Johnson. Her work is described in the context of the space race, which helps to clarify the importance of her role. Colón’s signature soft, textured illustrations evoke the time period and Johnson’s feeling of wonder about the world, expressed in the refrain, “Why? What? How?” The text moves slowly and demands a fairly high comprehension level (e.g., “it was the job of these women computers to double-check the engineers’ data, develop complex equations, and analyze the numbers”). An author’s note repeats much of the text, adding quotes from Johnson and more details about her more recent recognition.

A detail-rich picture book best for readers who enjoy nonfiction and are interested in history or science. (Picture book/biography. 9-12)

Pub Date: Oct. 8, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-5344-0475-5

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: July 14, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2019

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