Jet-propelled—but a good introduction nevertheless.

THE HISTORY OF PREHISTORY

A quick tour through our planet’s past, from the aptly named Hadean Eon to the invention of writing.

With a cheery reassurance that their facts are “bang up-to-date and checked by experts!” two young tour guides—one light skinned, one dark—begin by ushering readers past Earth’s fiery beginnings (“Monstrous volcanoes spew out lava”). The earliest signs of life and the age of dinosaurs give way to Australopithecus afarensis “Lucy,” Homo sapiens, the appearance of cave paintings 40,000 years ago, and so on to stone tools, farming, and, finally, 4,000-year-old hymns ascribed to the first identified author, a Sumerian priestess named En-hedu-anna. For all their claims, the veteran collaborators (Books! Books! Books!, 2017, etc.) do slip up occasionally, repeatedly noting for instance, that pterosaurs are flying reptiles and not dinosaurs but neglecting to explain the difference and by understating the currently theorized age of the oldest cave art by over 20,000 years. Still, in their cartoon illustrations they bring young time tourists face to face with now-vanished creatures, several types of prehuman ancestors, a (light-skinned, female) cave artist, and En-hedu-anna, dressed in elaborate regalia and digging away on a clay tablet. And, just for fun, a timeline designed as a board game at the end offers a painless review of the passing eras.

Jet-propelled—but a good introduction nevertheless. (glossary) (Informational picture book. 7-9)

Pub Date: March 3, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-91095-976-3

Page Count: 48

Publisher: Otter-Barry

Review Posted Online: Jan. 21, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2020

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

A promising debut spoiled by a design issue and cultural insensitivity.

HOOT AND HOWL ACROSS THE DESERT

LIFE IN THE WORLD'S DRIEST DESERTS

Creatively stylized images of flora and fauna native to some 15 deserts around the world.

Interspersing her examination with closer looks at camels and at sand dunes, the bird communities associated with acacia trees, and like intriguing sidelights, Tzomaka poses groups of select residents from all three types of desert (hot, cold, and coastal) against sere backdrops, with pithily informative comments on characteristic behaviors and survival strategies. But significant bits of her presentation are only semilegible, with black type placed on deep blue or purple backgrounds. And rarely (if ever) have desert animals looked so…floral. Along with opting for a palette of bright pinks, greens, and purples rather than natural hues for her flat, screen-print–style figures, Tzomaka decorates them with contrasting whirls of petals and twining flourishes, stars, scallops, pinwheels, and geometric lines or tessellations. Striking though these fancies are, artistic license has led her into some serious overgeneralizations, as she claims to be drawing on regional folk motifs for inspiration—justifying the ornate ruffs and borders on creatures of the Kalahari with a vague note that “African tribes make accessories and jewelry…decorated with repeated lines, circles and dots,” for instance, and identifying a Northwest Coastal pattern on an arctic fox as “Inuit.” Readers may find less shifty footing in more conventional outings like Jim Arnosky’s Watching Desert Wildlife (1998).

A promising debut spoiled by a design issue and cultural insensitivity. (map, index) (Informational picture book. 7-9)

Pub Date: April 21, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-500-65198-8

Page Count: 56

Publisher: Thames & Hudson

Review Posted Online: Feb. 26, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2020

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

Peeks under lots of rocks and logs but barely scratches the surface.

UNDER YOUR FEET

A view of the “important jobs” that soil and all the things that live in it have.

Considering the uncountable plants, animals, fungi, and microbes that live there, soil is a busy place—as the page design goes overboard in reflecting, with floating labels, teeming dollops of fact in diverse typefaces, snippets of photographs, and larger images done in a printlike style shoveled together in high-density arrays of angled or undulating lines on every spread. After opening with an overview of soil’s roles, particularly in regulating climate, the discourse plows through its organic and inorganic elements, how it varies in different environments, the living things that populate it, and, in broader context, how the dusty surfaces of the moon and Mars compare. Earthworms are such major players that they get two spreads of their own, six mentions of their “poop,” and instructions for setting up a catch-and-release “worm hotel.” Because the visuals are more about flash than furthering understanding, and the authors too seem bent on cramming in the dazzle (“Astronauts tried tasting moon dust!”), readers with a yen to dig deep may just scuff through this before going on to more fertile surveys like Marc ter Horst’s Hey There, Earth Dweller, illustrated by Wendy Panders and translated by Laura Watkinson (2019), or Tom Jackson’s Earth Sciences (2019).

Peeks under lots of rocks and logs but barely scratches the surface. (projects, glossary, index) (Informational picture book. 7-9)

Pub Date: April 7, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-4654-9095-7

Page Count: 64

Publisher: DK Publishing

Review Posted Online: Feb. 26, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2020

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet
more