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



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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The squabbles caused by a brief shower on a busy street turn to smiles under the ensuing rainbow in this picture-book mini-drama from the author of No, David! (1998). Plunked by the first few drops, some chickens squawk, exciting a cat whose yowls make a dog bark, which makes a man yell, which wakes up a baby . . . and so on, until traffic is jammed, horns are honking, store owners are out on the sidewalk bickering, and an awkward shopper knocks over a fruit stand. Then the rain stops, the sun comes out, bringing a rainbow, and just like that everyone’s annoyance melts away and life is sweeter. Using a bright palette and making small details and facial expressions stand out, Shannon creates a gleaming, rain-washed neighborhood of gently caricatured residents, all of whom fall into conventional gender roles but convey the episode’s moods, changeable as the weather, with theatrical flair. Broader, perhaps, but less refreshing in the end than Karen Hesse’s lyrical Come On, Rain! (1999). Save it for a rainy day. (Picture book. 5-7)

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 2000

ISBN: 0-439-05021-9

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Scholastic

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2000

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Rock on, Rocket! (Early reader. 5-7)


From the Rocket series

Into the woods….

Hills’ canine picture-book protagonist, Rocket, learned how to read in his first book and now stars in an early reader designed for kids learning to read, too. The story opens when Rocket is charmed by a pink butterfly that lands on his nose, and he follows it from spread to spread until it “flies into the forest.” In contrast with prior spreads that featured ample white, open space, the ensuing illustrations of the forest are dark and saturated. A full-bleed double-page spread shows Rocket small and low at the bottom of the verso with the forest before him: “The forest is very dark. The trees are very tall. Rocket does not want to go into the forest.” After some hemming and hawing, Rocket’s desire to find the butterfly overpowers his fear of the forest, and he walks among the tall trees, looking at pine cones, ferns, and, finally, the butterfly. Necessary redundancy between art and text befits the early-reader form and allows children to find cues in the art to support decoding of the controlled text, but Hills’ deep experience as a picture-book artist enriches his attention to framing, pacing, and layout. The result is an exemplary early reader in words and images, with a happy ending, to boot.

Rock on, Rocket! (Early reader. 5-7)

Pub Date: July 31, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-5247-7347-2

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: April 25, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2018

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