Young readers can only hope for this much excitement on their real field trips.

READ REVIEW

THE SPACE DISASTER

From the Mad Scientist Academy series , Vol. 3

The diverse young monsters of the Mad Scientist Academy take a whirlwind tour of the solar system thanks to an unusually realistic planetarium.

In what amounts to an updated Magic School Bus Lost in the Solar System (1990), orange-haired, green-skinned Dr. Cosmic, hanging from an orrery on the ceiling, lectures on the orbits and relative distances of the eight planets. He then issues anti-gravity belts and leads the students to a planetarium that (seemingly) whisks them off to Mars before departing on an errand. Cue the computer gone haywire, which transports the class to three more un-Earthly locales: Saturn’s clouds; a Jovian moon; and a comet blasting out a tail. Being more serious-minded sorts than Ms. Frizzle’s coterie, the students exchange informational observations rather than jokes while rescuing one another from various pickles. Along with tucking in frequent factual asides about planetary conditions and other astronomical topics, McElligott closes with a summary infographic. Still, his large panels of comic art are well-stocked with sound effects and whooping alarms, sudden changes in setting, and bodies flying every which way. Rescue comes at last as the virtual blasts within the planetarium are capped by an actual one that lets in the sunlight.

Young readers can only hope for this much excitement on their real field trips. (Graphic informational fantasy. 7-9)

Pub Date: July 11, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-553-52382-9

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Crown

Review Posted Online: March 29, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2017

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A floral fantasia for casual browsers as well as budding botanists.

THE BIG BOOK OF BLOOMS

Spirited illustrations brighten a large-format introduction to flowers and their pollinators.

Showing a less Eurocentric outlook than in his Big Book of Birds (2019), Zommer employs agile brushwork and a fondness for graceful lines and bright colors to bring to life bustling bouquets from a range of habitats, from rainforest to desert. Often switching from horizontal to vertical orientations, the topical spreads progress from overviews of major floral families and broad looks at plant anatomy and reproduction to close-ups of select flora—roses and tulips to Venus flytraps and stinking flowers. The book then closes with a shoutout to the conservators and other workers at Kew Gardens (this is a British import) and quick suggestions for young balcony or windowsill gardeners. In most of the low-angled scenes, fancifully drawn avian or insect pollinators with human eyes hover around all the large, luscious blooms, as do one- or two-sentence comments that generally add cogent observations or insights: “All parts of the deadly nightshade plant contain poison. It has been used to poison famous emperors, kings and warriors throughout history.” (Confusingly for the audience, the accurate but limited assertion that bees “often visit blue or purple flowers” appears to be contradicted by an adjacent view of several zeroing in on a yellow toadflax.) Human figures, or, in one scene, hands, are depicted in a variety of sizes, shapes, and skin colors.

A floral fantasia for casual browsers as well as budding botanists. (glossary, index) (Informational picture book. 7-9)

Pub Date: May 5, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-500-65199-5

Page Count: 64

Publisher: Thames & Hudson

Review Posted Online: March 25, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2020

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A nifty high-seas caper for chapter-book readers with a love of adventure and a yearning for treasure.

THE PIRATE PIG

It’s not truffles but doubloons that tickle this porcine wayfarer’s fancy.

Funke and Meyer make another foray into chapter-book fare after Emma and the Blue Genie (2014). Here, mariner Stout Sam and deckhand Pip eke out a comfortable existence on Butterfly Island ferrying cargo to and fro. Life is good, but it takes an unexpected turn when a barrel washes ashore containing a pig with a skull-and-crossbones pendant around her neck. It soon becomes clear that this little piggy, dubbed Julie, has the ability to sniff out treasure—lots of it—in the sea. The duo is pleased with her skills, but pride goeth before the hog. Stout Sam hands out some baubles to the local children, and his largess attracts the unwanted attention of Barracuda Bill and his nasty minions. Now they’ve pignapped Julie, and it’s up to the intrepid sailors to save the porker and their own bacon. The succinct word count meets the needs of kids looking for early adventure fare. The tale is slight, bouncy, and amusing, though Julie is never the piratical buccaneer the book’s cover seems to suggest. Meanwhile, Meyer’s cheery watercolors are as comfortable diagramming the different parts of a pirate vessel as they are rendering the dread pirate captain himself.

A nifty high-seas caper for chapter-book readers with a love of adventure and a yearning for treasure. (Adventure. 7-9)

Pub Date: June 23, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-385-37544-3

Page Count: 80

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: March 17, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2015

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