DIGGING FOR BIRD DINOSAURS

AN EXPEDITION TO MADAGASCAR

Readers of this photographic essay join paleontologist Cathy Forster and a team of scientists hunting for bird-dinosaur fossils on the island of Madagascar, off the coast of Africa. The pictures and text show both the drudgery (chipping away at hard rock in 100-degree heat) and the thrill of discovery as the awl hits something hard that's buried underneath. Then the author, an outstanding photographer known for such titles as Red-Eyed Tree Frog (1999), describes how the scientist scrapes away the sandstone to reveal a tiny pink-brown fossil bone. Dinosaur lovers will not find the dramatic big bones of other field trips in this work, but middle school science enthusiasts will learn about “Scientists in the Field,” as the series title indicates. Photographs and text show the tools and painstaking processes by which scientists uncover, label, excavate, and prepare fossil finds for further study in laboratories and museums. Other sections provided detailed information about methods used to study and classify fossils in the university laboratory. Forster also gives biographical information, explaining her early love of dinosaurs and her current work as a paleontologist at the State University of New York at Stony Brook. A good look at a contemporary scientist. (list of further reading, index) (Nonfiction. 9-12)

Pub Date: April 1, 2000

ISBN: 0-395-96056-8

Page Count: 48

Publisher: Houghton Mifflin

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2000

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Falters in its oversimplified portrayal of a complicated region and people.

GROUND ZERO

Parallel storylines take readers through the lives of two young people on Sept. 11 in 2001 and 2019.

In the contemporary timeline, Reshmina is an Afghan girl living in foothills near the Pakistan border that are a battleground between the Taliban and U.S. armed forces. She is keen to improve her English while her twin brother, Pasoon, is inspired by the Taliban and wants to avenge their older sister, killed by an American bomb on her wedding day. Reshmina helps a wounded American soldier, making her village a Taliban target. In 2001, Brandon Chavez is spending the day with his father, who works at the World Trade Center’s Windows on the World restaurant. Brandon is heading to the underground mall when a plane piloted by al-Qaida hits the tower, and his father is among those killed. The two storylines develop in parallel through alternating chapters. Gratz’s deeply moving writing paints vivid images of the loss and fear of those who lived through the trauma of 9/11. However, this nuance doesn’t extend to the Afghan characters; Reshmina and Pasoon feel one-dimensional. Descriptions of the Taliban’s Afghan victims and Reshmina's gentle father notwithstanding, references to all young men eventually joining the Taliban and Pasoon's zeal for their cause counteract this messaging. Explanations for the U.S. military invasion of Afghanistan in the author’s note and in characters’ conversations too simplistically present the U.S. presence.

Falters in its oversimplified portrayal of a complicated region and people. (author’s note) (Fiction. 9-12)

Pub Date: Feb. 2, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-338-24575-2

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Scholastic

Review Posted Online: Dec. 15, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2021

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Outstanding suspense.

WILDFIRE

WHEN TREES EXPLODE

A boy, a girl, a venerable Jeep, and a massive wildfire sweeping across the mountains of Maine. It’s the perfect setup for a riveting tale of high suspense.

Sam and Delphy are staying at separate summer camps on the same lake when the threat of a wildfire forces evacuation—but both are inadvertently left behind. Using the survival skills he learned from his deceased father, Sam hikes cross-country until he finds a remote cabin and the old Jeep that will prove to be his salvation. Only later, barreling along a narrow logging road, does he encounter Delphy. With shades of My Side of the Mountain for a modern audience, 2010 Newbery Honoree Philbrick (The Mostly True Adventures of Homer P. Figg) provides the pair of young adolescents, both white, with just enough modern technology to keep the tale credible. It will take all of their courage and wits to survive being lost in the wilderness, even as they are constantly threatened both by the erratic fire and the danger posed by two out-of-control arsonists. Sam’s pithy first-person voice is self-deprecating enough to be fully believable and plays nicely against Delphy’s sometimes less confident but heroically determined character. Short chapters, outstanding cover art, and a breathless pace make this a fine choice for reluctant readers. Interesting backmatter regarding wildfires and survival tips rounds out a thrilling tale.

Outstanding suspense. (Fiction. 9-12)

Pub Date: Sept. 3, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-338-26690-0

Page Count: 208

Publisher: Blue Sky/Scholastic

Review Posted Online: June 10, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2019

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