From the Science Buddies series

These activities will get kids out and interacting with nature, but the science is disappointingly shallow.

Some simple activities to get kids exploring the great outdoors in their own backyards.

Ahrens explains hacking your backyard as “Learn[ing] about nature’s processes by going outside and exploring the world around you. Find out how the natural world works with hands-on experiments.” An early spread gives some tips and safety info before any investigations begin. Then comes the fun: Eight activities have kids making a sewing-needle compass, telling the temperature by counting cricket chirps, exploring capillary action with carnations, testing ant deterrents, doing paper chromatography with fall leaves, discovering what habitats pill bugs like best, exploring the effect of light pollution on the night sky, and observing worms’ tunnels and behavior. Though Ahrens uses the term “experiments,” these are rather activities, as the scientific method is not explained or followed. At most, readers are asked to consider what they’ve observed, and the “Science Takeaway” boxes following each activity make this irrelevant, as they describe both what readers should have noticed (often with a photo) and the science behind the phenomenon. A couple of group photos show a diverse bunch of kids, though most of the activity pages show white children and white hands investigating. Up-close pics of insects are a big draw.

These activities will get kids out and interacting with nature, but the science is disappointingly shallow. (glossary, further information, index) (Nonfiction. 7-11)

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-5415-3915-0

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Lerner

Review Posted Online: Nov. 20, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2018

1001 BEES

Friends of these pollinators will be best served elsewhere.

This book is buzzing with trivia.

Follow a swarm of bees as they leave a beekeeper’s apiary in search of a new home. As the scout bees traverse the fields, readers are provided with a potpourri of facts and statements about bees. The information is scattered—much like the scout bees—and as a result, both the nominal plot and informational content are tissue-thin. There are some interesting facts throughout the book, but many pieces of trivia are too, well trivial, to prove useful. For example, as the bees travel, readers learn that “onion flowers are round and fluffy” and “fennel is a plant that is used in cooking.” Other facts are oversimplified and as a result are not accurate. For example, monofloral honey is defined as “made by bees who visit just one kind of flower” with no acknowledgment of the fact that bees may range widely, and swarm activity is described as a springtime event, when it can also occur in summer and early fall. The information in the book, such as species identification and measurement units, is directed toward British readers. The flat, thin-lined artwork does little to enhance the story, but an “I spy” game challenging readers to find a specific bee throughout is amusing.

Friends of these pollinators will be best served elsewhere. (Informational picture book. 8-10)

Pub Date: May 18, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-500-65265-7

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Thames & Hudson

Review Posted Online: April 13, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2021


From the Everything Awesome About… series

A quick flight but a blast from first to last.

A charged-up roundup of astro-facts.

Having previously explored everything awesome about both dinosaurs (2019) and sharks (2020), Lowery now heads out along a well-traveled route, taking readers from the Big Bang through a planet-by-planet tour of the solar system and then through a selection of space-exploration highlights. The survey isn’t unique, but Lowery does pour on the gosh-wow by filling each hand-lettered, poster-style spread with emphatic colors and graphics. He also goes for the awesome in his selection of facts—so that readers get nothing about Newton’s laws of motion, for instance, but will come away knowing that just 65 years separate the Wright brothers’ flight and the first moon landing. They’ll also learn that space is silent but smells like burned steak (according to astronaut Chris Hadfield), that thanks to microgravity no one snores on the International Space Station, and that Buzz Aldrin was the first man on the moon…to use the bathroom. And, along with a set of forgettable space jokes (OK, one: “Why did the carnivore eat the shooting star?” “Because it was meteor”), the backmatter features drawing instructions for budding space artists and a short but choice reading list. Nods to Katherine Johnson and NASA’s other African American “computers” as well as astronomer Vera Rubin give women a solid presence in the otherwise male and largely White cast of humans. (This book was reviewed digitally.)

A quick flight but a blast from first to last. (Informational picture book. 7-10)

Pub Date: Sept. 7, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-338-35974-9

Page Count: 128

Publisher: Orchard/Scholastic

Review Posted Online: July 26, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2021

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