An alternative to the shelf full of picture-book biographies, for readers who may find Sheila Cole’s Dragon in the Cliff,...

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MARY ANNING'S CURIOSITY

Carved out and buffed up from historical records, an imagined account of the great fossil hunter’s early life and groundbreaking career.

Following an account of the lightning strike that killed several adults but spared the 15-month-old Mary, Kulling skips ahead to record the child’s deep delight at getting a rock hammer for her eighth birthday. Between that and Anning’s laborious extraction of a great ichthyosaur skeleton at age 12, in 1811, the author chronicles her sometimes-hazardous search for fossil ammonites and other “curiosities” (as they were then called) to sell as the family livelihood—first with her father and then, after his disabling accident and early death, largely alone. Period details of everyday life in Lyme Regis, both in the narrative and in Castrillón’s delicate illustrations, and embroidered encounters with rival fossil hunters and collectors flesh out the story; notes at the end wire together explanations of what fossils are with descriptions of some of Anning’s other discoveries and their subsequent histories. Though here at least she seems almost relieved to quit school at the earliest opportunity to pursue her vocation, Mary presents an admirable role model for her lively mind, independent spirit, and a continuing sense of wonder that drives her to chip away at nature’s mysteries.

An alternative to the shelf full of picture-book biographies, for readers who may find Sheila Cole’s Dragon in the Cliff, illustrated by T.C. Farrow (1991) hard to read or get. (bibliography) (Historical fiction. 9-11)

Pub Date: May 16, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-55498-898-3

Page Count: 156

Publisher: Groundwood

Review Posted Online: Feb. 1, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2017

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A rare chance to shine for the former ninth planet.

PLUTO'S SECRET

AN ICY WORLD'S TALE OF DISCOVERY

Is it a planet? A dwarf planet? What’s up with that mysterious body that, even in our best telescopes, floats tantalizingly at the edge of visibility?

Pairing a lighthearted narrative in a hand-lettered–style typeface with informally drawn cartoon illustrations, this lively tale of astronomical revelations begins with the search for “Planet X.” It then sweeps past Pluto’s first sighting by Clyde Tombaugh and its naming by 11-year-old Venetia Burney to the later discovery of more icy worlds—both in our solar system’s Kuiper belt and orbiting other stars. Meanwhile, sailing along with a smug expression, the mottled orange planetoid is “busy dancing with its moons. / Cha-cha / Cha-cha-cha” and Kuiper buddies as it waits for Earth’s astronomers to realize at last that it’s different from the other planets (“BINGO!”) and needs a new classification. Ceres inexplicably rates no entry in the gallery of dwarf planets, and the closing glossary isn’t exactly stellar (“World: Any object in space”), but fans of Basher’s postmodern science surveys will feel right at home with the buoyant mix of personification and hard fact.

A rare chance to shine for the former ninth planet. (photos and additional detail, “Note from the Museum,” suggested reading, bibliography, index) (Nonfiction. 9-11)

Pub Date: March 12, 2013

ISBN: 978-1-4197-0423-9

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Abrams

Review Posted Online: Dec. 26, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2013

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A lively jaunt over well-traveled territory.

PROFESSOR ASTRO CAT'S FRONTIERS OF SPACE

Conducted by a cat in a retro-futuristic space suit, this tour of the solar system and beyond earns style points for both its illustrations and its selection of “Factoroids.”

Diverging from the straight-line course such tours usually take, Professor Astro Cat begins with the Big Bang and the subsequent formation of stars and galaxies. In single-topic spreads, he then sails past the sun to present the Earth and moon, space travel from Apollo to the International Space Station, and the other planets in succession with their major moons and distinctive features. Going beyond the solar system, he explores constellations and telescopes and finally speculates in free-wheeling fashion about alien life and our future travels to other worlds. In blocky, mid-last-century–style cartoon pictures printed on rough paper, Astro Cat and his mouse sidekick point and comment as the smiling sun, cutaway views of spacecraft and satellites, heavenly bodies of many sorts and (toward the end) googly-eyed aliens sail past. Though claims that gas giants have a “surface” and that astronauts wear “armour to protect against flying space rocks” are, at best, misleading (and the text could have stood another round of copy editing), Astro Cat’s digestible bursts of information are generally accurate—and well-salted with memorable notes about, for instance, diamonds on Uranus or how dirty laundry on the water-poor ISS is consigned to fiery destruction in the atmosphere.

A lively jaunt over well-traveled territory. (glossary) (Nonfiction. 9-11)

Pub Date: Nov. 12, 2013

ISBN: 978-1-909263-079

Page Count: 64

Publisher: Flying Eye Books

Review Posted Online: Nov. 2, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2013

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