An ambitious effort—but overall a puzzler.

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 1, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2021

1001 BEES

Friends of these pollinators will be best served elsewhere.

This book is buzzing with trivia.

Follow a swarm of bees as they leave a beekeeper’s apiary in search of a new home. As the scout bees traverse the fields, readers are provided with a potpourri of facts and statements about bees. The information is scattered—much like the scout bees—and as a result, both the nominal plot and informational content are tissue-thin. There are some interesting facts throughout the book, but many pieces of trivia are too, well trivial, to prove useful. For example, as the bees travel, readers learn that “onion flowers are round and fluffy” and “fennel is a plant that is used in cooking.” Other facts are oversimplified and as a result are not accurate. For example, monofloral honey is defined as “made by bees who visit just one kind of flower” with no acknowledgment of the fact that bees may range widely, and swarm activity is described as a springtime event, when it can also occur in summer and early fall. The information in the book, such as species identification and measurement units, is directed toward British readers. The flat, thin-lined artwork does little to enhance the story, but an “I spy” game challenging readers to find a specific bee throughout is amusing.

Friends of these pollinators will be best served elsewhere. (Informational picture book. 8-10)

Pub Date: May 18, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-500-65265-7

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Thames & Hudson

Review Posted Online: April 13, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2021


A gleeful game for budding naturalists.

Artfully cropped animal portraits challenge viewers to guess which end they’re seeing.

In what will be a crowd-pleasing and inevitably raucous guessing game, a series of close-up stock photos invite children to call out one of the titular alternatives. A page turn reveals answers and basic facts about each creature backed up by more of the latter in a closing map and table. Some of the posers, like the tail of an okapi or the nose on a proboscis monkey, are easy enough to guess—but the moist nose on a star-nosed mole really does look like an anus, and the false “eyes” on the hind ends of a Cuyaba dwarf frog and a Promethea moth caterpillar will fool many. Better yet, Lavelle saves a kicker for the finale with a glimpse of a small parasitical pearlfish peeking out of a sea cucumber’s rear so that the answer is actually face and butt. “Animal identification can be tricky!” she concludes, noting that many of the features here function as defenses against attack: “In the animal world, sometimes your butt will save your face and your face just might save your butt!” (This book was reviewed digitally.)

A gleeful game for budding naturalists. (author’s note) (Informational picture book. 6-8)

Pub Date: July 11, 2023

ISBN: 9781728271170

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Sourcebooks eXplore

Review Posted Online: May 9, 2023

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2023

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