An ambitious effort—but overall a puzzler.

BEYOND

DISCOVERIES FROM THE OUTER REACHES OF SPACE

Poems celebrate astronomical subjects while illustrations hint at them.

Moving from Earth’s relatively nearby neighbors to the edge of the observable universe, dreamy meanderings attempt to evoke the wonder of the cosmos. The text looks like verse but reads like prose; it would work well as narration from a dramatic planetarium guide. Some sentences slide smoothly off the tongue: “The frigid glitter of a trillion comets / zooms in a cosmic ring.” Others frustrate any attempts to find deliberate rhythm: “Dwarf planets with tiny moons and atmospheres that freeze and fall / bring action and excitement.” More abstract than realistic, illustrations combine textures, washes, dots, and curlicues in contrasting shades of white, black, and purple. The effect, though occasionally clunky, is luminous and interesting. Informative labels appear alongside poetic descriptions of stars and galaxies, giving their names and distances from Earth. Though helpful, these captions occupy colored circles that disrupt the art. It’s hard to know what to make of one confusing double-page spread that features a haphazard smattering of three stanzas and five accompanying labels. Six pages of endmatter offer facts and details about the celestial bodies that inspired the poetry, pitched at readers who understand basic astronomy but won’t be bothered by oversimplifications like “clouds that rain rubies and sapphires.” A cute section gives “our cosmic address” in a hypothetical universal postal format.

An ambitious effort—but overall a puzzler. (further information, author's note, illustrator's note, further reading, selected bibliography) (Informational picture book. 6-11)

Pub Date: April 6, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-5415-7756-5

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Millbrook/Lerner

Review Posted Online: March 2, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2021

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

An immersive dunk into a vast subject—and on course for shorter attention spans.

EVERYTHING AWESOME ABOUT SHARKS AND OTHER UNDERWATER CREATURES!

In the wake of Everything Awesome About Dinosaurs and Other Prehistoric Beasts! (2019), Lowery spins out likewise frothy arrays of facts and observations about sharks, whales, giant squid, and smaller but no less extreme (or at least extremely interesting) sea life.

He provides plenty of value-added features, from overviews of oceanic zones and environments to jokes, drawing instructions, and portrait galleries suitable for copying or review. While not one to pass up any opportunity to, for instance, characterize ambergris as “whale vomit perfume” or the clownfish’s protective coating as “snot armor,” he also systematically introduces members of each of the eight orders of sharks, devotes most of a page to the shark’s electroreceptive ampullae of Lorenzini, and even sheds light on the unobvious differences between jellyfish and the Portuguese man-of-war or the reason why the blue octopus is said to have “arms” rather than “tentacles.” He also argues persuasively that sharks have gotten a bad rap (claiming that more people are killed each year by…vending machines) and closes with pleas to be concerned about plastic waste, to get involved in conservation efforts, and (cannily) to get out and explore our planet because (quoting Jacques-Yves Cousteau) “People protect what they love.” Human figures, some with brown skin, pop up occasionally to comment in the saturated color illustrations. (This book was reviewed digitally with 10-by-17-inch double-page spreads viewed at 45% of actual size.)

An immersive dunk into a vast subject—and on course for shorter attention spans. (bibliography, list of organizations) (Nonfiction. 7-10)

Pub Date: Oct. 6, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-338-35973-2

Page Count: 128

Publisher: Orchard/Scholastic

Review Posted Online: June 30, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2020

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

Here’s hoping this will inspire many children to joyfully engage in writing.

WRITE! WRITE! WRITE!

Both technique and imaginative impulse can be found in this useful selection of poems about the literary art.

Starting with the essentials of the English language, the letters of “Our Alphabet,” the collection moves through 21 other poems of different types, meters, and rhyme schemes. This anthology has clear classroom applications, but it will also be enjoyed by individual readers who can pore carefully over playful illustrations filled with diverse children, butterflies, flowers, books, and pieces of writing. Tackling various parts of the writing process, from “How To Begin” through “Revision Is” to “Final Edit,” the poems also touch on some reasons for writing, like “Thank You Notes” and “Writing About Reading.” Some of the poems are funny, as in the quirky, four-line “If I Were an Octopus”: “I’d grab eight pencils. / All identical. / I’d fill eight notebooks. / One per tentacle.” An amusing undersea scene dominated by a smiling, orangy octopus fills this double-page spread. Some of the poems are more focused (and less lyrical) than others, such as “Final Edit” with its ending stanzas: “I check once more to guarantee / all is flawless as can be. / Careless errors will discredit / my hard work. / That’s why I edit. / But I don’t like it. / There I said it.” At least the poet tries for a little humor in those final lines.

Here’s hoping this will inspire many children to joyfully engage in writing. (Picture book/poetry. 7-10)

Pub Date: March 17, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-68437-362-8

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Wordsong/Boyds Mills

Review Posted Online: Dec. 18, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2020

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet
more