A one-trick pony, grounded by uneven production values and low octane content.

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SPACE

From the Legendary Journeys series

Aside from a design gimmick, there’s not much worth notice in this routine, scattershot history of space flight.

Big, double slide-out panels are used to good advantage in presenting a 40-inch-long portrait of the Saturn V rocket and smaller but still eye-filling images of both a space shuttle and the spidery International Space Station. Elsewhere, though, said panels just function as added space for more of the self-contained, interchangeable bite-sized picture-with–explanatory-caption units that are mechanically lined up on each spread. Following quick looks at rocketry and the solar system, Goldsmith presents Space Race highlights imbued with nationalistic fervor (Sputnik I “did nothing other than send out a constant radio signal”; Alan Shepard’s hop into space “did much to restore U.S. national pride”). He then goes on to sketchy surveys of satellites, space stations and space probes sent to other planets. His final spread, headed “Modern Missions,” contains no specific mention of developments in commercial space flight more recent than Dennis Tito’s 2001 jaunt. The digital paintings (a few of which feature cutaway views beneath flaps) are clear and sharply detailed—unlike the scanty assortment of murky photos mixed in.

A one-trick pony, grounded by uneven production values and low octane content. (index) (Novelty nonfiction. 9-12)

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-7534-6848-7

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Kingfisher

Review Posted Online: April 18, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2012

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Outstanding suspense.

WILDFIRE

WHEN TREES EXPLODE

A boy, a girl, a venerable Jeep, and a massive wildfire sweeping across the mountains of Maine. It’s the perfect setup for a riveting tale of high suspense.

Sam and Delphy are staying at separate summer camps on the same lake when the threat of a wildfire forces evacuation—but both are inadvertently left behind. Using the survival skills he learned from his deceased father, Sam hikes cross-country until he finds a remote cabin and the old Jeep that will prove to be his salvation. Only later, barreling along a narrow logging road, does he encounter Delphy. With shades of My Side of the Mountain for a modern audience, 2010 Newbery Honoree Philbrick (The Mostly True Adventures of Homer P. Figg) provides the pair of young adolescents, both white, with just enough modern technology to keep the tale credible. It will take all of their courage and wits to survive being lost in the wilderness, even as they are constantly threatened both by the erratic fire and the danger posed by two out-of-control arsonists. Sam’s pithy first-person voice is self-deprecating enough to be fully believable and plays nicely against Delphy’s sometimes less confident but heroically determined character. Short chapters, outstanding cover art, and a breathless pace make this a fine choice for reluctant readers. Interesting backmatter regarding wildfires and survival tips rounds out a thrilling tale.

Outstanding suspense. (Fiction. 9-12)

Pub Date: Sept. 3, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-338-26690-0

Page Count: 208

Publisher: Blue Sky/Scholastic

Review Posted Online: June 10, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2019

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This middle-grade story of family, friendship and school has all the right elements, but it lacks an ignition spark.

RUBY GOLDBERG'S BRIGHT IDEA

A Rube Goldberg namesake discovers there’s more to life than inventions.

Fifth-grader Ruby Goldberg spends more time thinking about elaborate contraptions than about school or the people around her. Determined to win the gold medal that has eluded her in earlier science fairs, she focuses all her attention on the construction of her entry, ignoring her patient best friend’s needs and her grieving grandfather’s feelings. But there’s hope that, like the cartoonist and inventor she was named for, she can become a more well-rounded person. At her father’s suggestion, she collaborates with classmate Dominic, a former rival. Working together leads to friendship, and their intricate system for the delivery of a newspaper and slippers is, indeed, an engineering marvel—though she comes to understand it will never replace her grandfather’s dog. Unfortunately, it doesn’t quite all come together, despite Ruby’s appropriately self-centered and sometimes-funny narration. By her own account, Ruby has been supercompetitive for years; her sudden behavior changes are therefore not quite credible. Ruby’s inventive mind is interesting, though the actual diagrammed workings of her Tomato-Matic 2000 are sadly opaque (thank goodness the narrative describes it).

This middle-grade story of family, friendship and school has all the right elements, but it lacks an ignition spark. (Fiction. 9-12)

Pub Date: April 8, 2014

ISBN: 978-1-4424-8027-8

Page Count: 144

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: Jan. 4, 2014

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