Handy and lucid, this slim volume makes an important topic digestible.

NATURE OUT OF BALANCE

HOW INVASIVE SPECIES ARE CHANGING THE PLANET

From the Orca Footprints series

Young readers are introduced to non-native invasive species: what they are and how they are affecting ecosystems around the world.

This nonfiction science title contains four chapters, leading readers from an understanding of what an invasive species is and how it overtakes new areas, through how systems work and are affected by newcomers, then the complications involved in efforts to control the spread of invasive species, and finally to a look at how humans can work with the reality of environmental change. Each chapter is divided into short sections that provide bursts of useful information, and spreads are enhanced with small “eco-facts,” well-captioned photographs, and frequent half-page featurettes on “invasive all-stars”: specific species, such as domestic cats, that have changed regions with their rapid spread and notable environmental effects. Making sure to include humans as one of the Earth’s most dramatic invasive species and greatest vectors of spreading others, Wilcox places the topic in historical context, including the spread of diseases such as smallpox during settler colonialism and mentioning the roles of the Industrial Revolution and capitalism on the human population and use of natural resources. The choice to include a photo of a White woman with a “build the wall” sign to illustrate xenophobia rather than, for instance, those who rally for immigrants’ rights, may have the effect of distressing young targets of xenophobia. The reasonably short sections are clear and engaging, and the balance of hope against the potentially stressful subject leaves readers informed and energized rather than defeated.

Handy and lucid, this slim volume makes an important topic digestible. (resources, glossary, index) (Nonfiction. 9-13)

Pub Date: Feb. 16, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-4598-2395-2

Page Count: 48

Publisher: Orca

Review Posted Online: Nov. 27, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2020

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Contentwise, an arbitrary assortment…but sure to draw fans of comics, of science, or of both.

FLASH FACTS

Flash, Batman, and other characters from the DC Comics universe tackle supervillains and STEM-related topics and sometimes, both.

Credited to 20 writers and illustrators in various combinations, the 10 episodes invite readers to tag along as Mera and Aquaman visit oceanic zones from epipelagic to hadalpelagic; Supergirl helps a young scholar pick a science-project topic by taking her on a tour of the solar system; and Swamp Thing lends Poison Ivy a hand to describe how DNA works (later joining Swamp Kid to scuttle a climate-altering scheme by Arcane). In other episodes, various costumed creations explain the ins and outs of diverse large- and small-scale phenomena, including electricity, atomic structure, forensic techniques, 3-D printing, and the lactate threshold. Presumably on the supposition that the characters will be more familiar to readers than the science, the minilectures tend to start from simple basics, but the figures are mostly both redrawn to look more childlike than in the comics and identified only in passing. Drawing styles and page designs differ from chapter to chapter but not enough to interrupt overall visual unity and flow—and the cast is sufficiently diverse to include roles for superheroes (and villains) of color like Cyborg, Kid Flash, and the Latina Green Lantern, Jessica Cruz. Appended lists of websites and science-based YouTube channels, plus instructions for homespun activities related to each episode, point inspired STEM-winders toward further discoveries.

Contentwise, an arbitrary assortment…but sure to draw fans of comics, of science, or of both. (Graphic nonfiction. 9-12)

Pub Date: Feb. 2, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-77950-382-4

Page Count: 160

Publisher: DC

Review Posted Online: Jan. 13, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2021

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Like oil itself, this is a book that needs to be handled with special care.

OIL

In 1977, the oil carrier Exxon Valdez spilled 11 million gallons of oil into a formerly pristine Alaskan ocean inlet, killing millions of birds, animals, and fish. Despite a cleanup, crude oil is still there.

The Winters foretold the destructive powers of the atomic bomb allusively in The Secret Project (2017), leaving the actuality to the backmatter. They make no such accommodations to young audiences in this disturbing book. From the dark front cover, on which oily blobs conceal a seabird, to the rescuer’s sad face on the back, the mother-son team emphasizes the disaster. A relatively easy-to-read and poetically heightened text introduces the situation. Oil is pumped from the Earth “all day long, all night long, / day after day, year after year” in “what had been unspoiled land, home to Native people // and thousands of caribou.” The scale of extraction is huge: There’s “a giant pipeline” leading to “enormous ships.” Then, crash. Rivers of oil gush out over three full-bleed wordless pages. Subsequent scenes show rocks, seabirds, and sea otters covered with oil. Finally, 30 years later, animals have returned to a cheerful scene. “But if you lift a rock… // oil / seeps / up.” For an adult reader, this is heartbreaking. How much more difficult might this be for an animal-loving child?

Like oil itself, this is a book that needs to be handled with special care. (author’s note, further reading) (Informational picture book. 9-12)

Pub Date: March 31, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-5344-3077-8

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Beach Lane/Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: Nov. 24, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2019

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