Quick but wide-angled overviews.



From the Explorer series

Highlights in the long history of plants, from primeval algae to genetically modified rice.

Ada Osprey, intrepid librarian of the Eagle-Eyed Explorer Club, invites readers to tag along as she travels back in time, busily taking notes. Sounding rather a lot like lectures, these cover the distinctive characteristics of plants, how cyanobacteria kicked off plant evolution by embedding themselves in other single-celled organisms, the development in plants of different strategies for survival and reproduction, the invention of agriculture, and finally our use and misuse of fossil fuels and other plant-based products. Along the way six “plant Explorers” such as geneticist Gregor Mendel and botanical illustrator Marianne North earn short profiles. Following a pair of review quizzes (answers, refreshingly, not provided in a separate key) she presents the survey’s special feature—a one-sided, 6-foot-long, accordion-folded timeline studded with painted depictions of around 100 identified specimens, select landmark events such as the K-T extinction and the appearance of an early farmer (wielding, anachronistically, a metal sickle) and explanatory captions. Ada has brown skin and long, dark hair. A similar timeline graces the co-published Mammals!, with a gallery of hominins (all male, brown-skinned, and, with the exception of a downright dapper Homo habilis, unkempt) marching amid a throng of smiling, now-extinct prehistoric contemporary creatures.

Quick but wide-angled overviews. (index, glossary) (Novelty nonfiction. 8-11)

Pub Date: March 5, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-995-5770-8-4

Page Count: 38

Publisher: What on Earth Books

Review Posted Online: Jan. 28, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2019

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A rare chance to shine for the former ninth planet.



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.


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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