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 2, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2021

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Friends of these pollinators will be best served elsewhere.

1001 BEES

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 14, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2021

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A quick flight but a blast from first to last.


From the Everything Awesome About… series

A charged-up roundup of astro-facts.

Having previously explored everything awesome about both dinosaurs (2019) and sharks (2020), Lowery now heads out along a well-traveled route, taking readers from the Big Bang through a planet-by-planet tour of the solar system and then through a selection of space-exploration highlights. The survey isn’t unique, but Lowery does pour on the gosh-wow by filling each hand-lettered, poster-style spread with emphatic colors and graphics. He also goes for the awesome in his selection of facts—so that readers get nothing about Newton’s laws of motion, for instance, but will come away knowing that just 65 years separate the Wright brothers’ flight and the first moon landing. They’ll also learn that space is silent but smells like burned steak (according to astronaut Chris Hadfield), that thanks to microgravity no one snores on the International Space Station, and that Buzz Aldrin was the first man on the moon…to use the bathroom. And, along with a set of forgettable space jokes (OK, one: “Why did the carnivore eat the shooting star?” “Because it was meteor”), the backmatter features drawing instructions for budding space artists and a short but choice reading list. Nods to Katherine Johnson and NASA’s other African American “computers” as well as astronomer Vera Rubin give women a solid presence in the otherwise male and largely White cast of humans. (This book was reviewed digitally.)

A quick flight but a blast from first to last. (Informational picture book. 7-10)

Pub Date: Sept. 7, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-338-35974-9

Page Count: 128

Publisher: Orchard/Scholastic

Review Posted Online: July 27, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2021

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