Curiously uninvolving, but it may get children to thinking about stuff and maybe inventing some gizmos of their own.

THE STORY OF THINGS

Early humans about 3 million years ago had “no things,” and Layton wants to show us how they—we—got them.

The artistic style is squiggly and agitated, with occasional collage photos and other overlays. Pictures run in double-page spreads punctuated by tiny identifiers (“No Plates to eat off”), foldouts and larger pop-ups. The left-hand, lower corner of each spread gives a time frame (“12,000-4,000 YEARS AGO”) as readers and humanity move from pointy stones as tools to fire to civilizations, freely dispensing gags along the way. Did the ancient Greeks really invent the hula hoop? “Wheels are wheely useful!” Noting the invention of champagne by Dom Perignon is a nice touch for adult readers. “Ye Book of ye Middle Ages” centers on Europe of course, with a nod toward China for the invention of gunpowder. Perhaps the most amusing paper-engineering effect is the steam engine, which makes a chugga-chugga sound while smoke billows and three bearded guys bounce around behind. At the end, bigger and faster engines give way to smaller and faster microchips. There are several images of this title in various places within the text—very meta indeed—but no references and a lot of generalities. One might say that there is little gender or ethnic mix, but the figures are so abstract or cartoony that it may not matter. There isn’t a lot of matter here, period.

Curiously uninvolving, but it may get children to thinking about stuff and maybe inventing some gizmos of their own. (Pop-up/nonfiction. 5-7)

Pub Date: June 1, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-340-94532-2

Page Count: 22

Publisher: Trafalgar Square

Review Posted Online: Oct. 10, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2012

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Earnest and silly by turns, it doesn’t quite capture the attention or the imagination, although surely its heart is in the...

ROSIE REVERE, ENGINEER

Rhymed couplets convey the story of a girl who likes to build things but is shy about it. Neither the poetry nor Rosie’s projects always work well.

Rosie picks up trash and oddments where she finds them, stashing them in her attic room to work on at night. Once, she made a hat for her favorite zookeeper uncle to keep pythons away, and he laughed so hard that she never made anything publicly again. But when her great-great-aunt Rose comes to visit and reminds Rosie of her own past building airplanes, she expresses her regret that she still has not had the chance to fly. Great-great-aunt Rose is visibly modeled on Rosie the Riveter, the iconic, red-bandanna–wearing poster woman from World War II. Rosie decides to build a flying machine and does so (it’s a heli-o-cheese-copter), but it fails. She’s just about to swear off making stuff forever when Aunt Rose congratulates her on her failure; now she can go on to try again. Rosie wears her hair swooped over one eye (just like great-great-aunt Rose), and other figures have exaggerated hairdos, tiny feet and elongated or greatly rounded bodies. The detritus of Rosie’s collections is fascinating, from broken dolls and stuffed animals to nails, tools, pencils, old lamps and possibly an erector set. And cheddar-cheese spray.

Earnest and silly by turns, it doesn’t quite capture the attention or the imagination, although surely its heart is in the right place. (historical note) (Picture book. 5-7)

Pub Date: Sept. 3, 2013

ISBN: 978-1-4197-0845-9

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Abrams

Review Posted Online: July 17, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2013

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A retro-futuristic romp, literally and figuratively screwy.

ROBOBABY

Robo-parents Diode and Lugnut present daughter Cathode with a new little brother—who requires, unfortunately, some assembly.

Arriving in pieces from some mechanistic version of Ikea, little Flange turns out to be a cute but complicated tyke who immediately falls apart…and then rockets uncontrollably about the room after an overconfident uncle tinkers with his basic design. As a squad of helpline techies and bevies of neighbors bearing sludge cake and like treats roll in, the cluttered and increasingly crowded scene deteriorates into madcap chaos—until at last Cath, with help from Roomba-like robodog Sprocket, stages an intervention by whisking the hapless new arrival off to a backyard workshop for a proper assembly and software update. “You’re such a good big sister!” warbles her frazzled mom. Wiesner’s robots display his characteristic clean lines and even hues but endearingly look like vaguely anthropomorphic piles of random jet-engine parts and old vacuum cleaners loosely connected by joints of armored cable. They roll hither and thither through neatly squared-off panels and pages in infectiously comical dismay. Even the end’s domestic tranquility lasts only until Cathode spots the little box buried in the bigger one’s packing material: “TWINS!” (This book was reviewed digitally with 9-by-22-inch double-page spreads viewed at 52% of actual size.)

A retro-futuristic romp, literally and figuratively screwy. (Picture book. 5-7)

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-544-98731-9

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Clarion Books

Review Posted Online: June 3, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2020

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