Chewy fare for fans of polysyllabic monikers but not a top-shelf prospect in the struggle to survive.

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THE DAWN OF PLANET EARTH

From the Prehistoric Field Guides series

A chatty lungfish leads a quick tour of life’s evolution, from Earth’s formation to the appearance of early mammals in the Triassic Period.

“Hi. My name is Ackerley. I’m an Acanthostega.” Following introductions and quick peeks at fossilization and continental drift, the colorfully mottled narrator highlights or at least mentions around a dozen extinct creatures. These range from millipedes “the size of crocodiles” and Opabinia—“If there were a prize for The Weirdest Creature That Ever Lived, Opabinia would be a hot favorite”— to the shrewlike Megazostrodon. Though rendered in close, sharp relief, usually with mouths threateningly open (at least for those animals with visible mouths), Minister’s page-filling, digitally modeled figures often sport a shiny, plastic look. The artificiality extends to an obtrusive absence of blood and gore despite attacks and toothy chomping aplenty here and also in the co-published Dinosaurs Rule. Moreover, both volumes share substantial passages of boilerplate and mention animals that have no corresponding portraits. The closing recaps and indexes are likewise incomplete.

Chewy fare for fans of polysyllabic monikers but not a top-shelf prospect in the struggle to survive. (Nonfiction. 7-9)

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 2015

ISBN: 978-1-4677-6348-6

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Hungry Tomato/Lerner

Review Posted Online: June 6, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2015

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A crisp historical vignette.

BEN'S REVOLUTION

BENJAMIN RUSSELL AND THE BATTLE OF BUNKER HILL

A boy experiences the Boston Tea Party, the response to the Intolerable Acts, and the battle at Breed’s Hill in Charlestown.

Philbrick has taken his Bunker Hill (2013), pulled from its 400 pages the pivotal moments, added a 12-year-old white boy—Benjamin Russell—as the pivot, and crafted a tale of what might have happened to him during those days of unrest in Boston from 1773 to 1775 (Russell was a real person). Philbrick explains, in plainspoken but gradually accelerating language, the tea tax, the Boston Tea Party, the Intolerable Acts, and the quartering of troops in Boston as well as the institution of a military government. Into this ferment, he introduces Benjamin Russell, where he went to school, his part-time apprenticeship at Isaiah Thomas’ newspaper, sledding down Beacon Hill, and the British officer who cleaned the cinders from the snow so the boys could sled farther and farther. It is these humanizing touches that make war its own intolerable act. Readers see Benjamin, courtesy of Minor’s misty gouache-and-watercolor tableaux, as he becomes stranded outside Boston Neck and becomes a clerk for the patriots. Significant characters are introduced, as is the geography of pre-landfilled Boston, to gain a good sense of why certain actions took place where they did. The final encounter at Breed’s Hill demonstrates how a battle can be won by retreating.

A crisp historical vignette. (maps, author’s note, illustrator’s note) (Historical fiction. 7-9)

Pub Date: May 23, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-399-16674-7

Page Count: 64

Publisher: Nancy Paulsen Books

Review Posted Online: Feb. 14, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2017

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A multilayered, endearing treasure of a day.

MY DAY WITH GONG GONG

Spending a day with Gong Gong doesn’t sound like very much fun to May.

Gong Gong doesn’t speak English, and May doesn’t know Chinese. How can they have a good day together? As they stroll through an urban Chinatown, May’s perpetually sanguine maternal grandfather chats with friends and visits shops. At each stop, Cantonese words fly back and forth, many clearly pointed at May, who understands none of it. It’s equally exasperating trying to communicate with Gong Gong in English, and by the time they join a card game in the park with Gong Gong’s friends, May is tired, hungry, and frustrated. But although it seems like Gong Gong hasn’t been attentive so far, when May’s day finally comes to a head, it is clear that he has. First-person text gives glimpses into May’s lively thoughts as they evolve through the day, and Gong Gong’s unchangingly jolly face reflects what could be mistaken for blithe obliviousness but is actually his way of showing love through sharing the people and places of his life. Through adorable illustrations that exude humor and warmth, this portrait of intergenerational affection is also a tribute to life in Chinatown neighborhoods: Street vendors, a busker playing a Chinese violin, a dim sum restaurant, and more all combine to add a distinctive texture. 

A multilayered, endearing treasure of a day. (glossary) (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: Sept. 8, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-77321-429-0

Page Count: 36

Publisher: Annick Press

Review Posted Online: June 30, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2020

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A deeply felt but not overwrought telling of a story that will be new to most young readers.

SEVEN AND A HALF TONS OF STEEL

A reverent account of the creation of a seagoing 9/11 memorial fashioned by incorporating part of one of the fallen towers into the hull of a Navy ship.

Following a wordless, powerful sequence in which a seemingly ordinary jet flies peacefully through a cloudless sky and then directly into a tower, Nolan opens by noting that there is “something different, something special” about the seemingly ordinary USS New York. In the tragedy’s aftermath, she explains, a steel beam was pulled from the wreckage and sent to a foundry in Louisiana. There, workers melted it down, recast and shaped it, and sent it to New Orleans, where, notwithstanding the destruction wrought by Hurricane Katrina, it was incorporated into the bow of a new ship of war. Gonzalez echoes the author’s somber, serious tone with dark scenes of ground zero, workers with shadowed faces, and views of the ship from low angles to accentuate its monumental bulk. Though Nolan goes light on names and dates, she adds a significant bit of background to the overall story of 9/11 and its enduring effects. Backmatter includes a cutaway diagram and some additional facts.

A deeply felt but not overwrought telling of a story that will be new to most young readers. (Informational picture book. 7-9)

Pub Date: Aug. 1, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-56145-912-4

Page Count: 36

Publisher: Peachtree

Review Posted Online: May 18, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2016

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