Unsubtle empowerment for young environmentalists.

SALAMANDER RESCUE

Almost–fourth-grader Cricket and her friends have a second adventure learning about, and helping, wildlife in Waterton (Ospreys in Danger, 2014).

From the start, readers are immersed in Cricket’s life as the daughter of a Canadian wildlife ranger: Dad lets Cricket ride with him to the scene of a “bear jam,” a traffic snarl caused by tourists gaping at a bear. It is close to the migration time of two-toed salamanders, and Cricket learns from a scientist that the creature’s population has been shrinking. Can Cricket and her friends help? The text’s simplicity is on target for beginning readers. Throughout the 10 short chapters—each headed by a sketch of an endearing-looking salamander—didactic conversations and experiences provide facts about bears, cats, deer, orcas, and especially Alberta’s two salamander species. The information is sound, but contrasting attempts at realistic conversation and especially at humor feel forced. The black-and-white pencil art is detailed and attractive, but it confirms the characters’ lack of diversity—faces are white, even in crowd scenes. The fact that the scientist studying the two-toed salamanders is a woman is almost a blow to feminism, since it is Cricket’s brother who figures out an invention to help the struggling creatures and then Cricket and her friends who manage to raise funds for the endeavor. Still, simple, accurate descriptions of specific research methods and of salamander features shine.

Unsubtle empowerment for young environmentalists. (Fiction. 7-9)

Pub Date: April 26, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-4598-1123-2

Page Count: 80

Publisher: Orca

Review Posted Online: Jan. 20, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2016

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A nifty high-seas caper for chapter-book readers with a love of adventure and a yearning for treasure.

THE PIRATE PIG

It’s not truffles but doubloons that tickle this porcine wayfarer’s fancy.

Funke and Meyer make another foray into chapter-book fare after Emma and the Blue Genie (2014). Here, mariner Stout Sam and deckhand Pip eke out a comfortable existence on Butterfly Island ferrying cargo to and fro. Life is good, but it takes an unexpected turn when a barrel washes ashore containing a pig with a skull-and-crossbones pendant around her neck. It soon becomes clear that this little piggy, dubbed Julie, has the ability to sniff out treasure—lots of it—in the sea. The duo is pleased with her skills, but pride goeth before the hog. Stout Sam hands out some baubles to the local children, and his largess attracts the unwanted attention of Barracuda Bill and his nasty minions. Now they’ve pignapped Julie, and it’s up to the intrepid sailors to save the porker and their own bacon. The succinct word count meets the needs of kids looking for early adventure fare. The tale is slight, bouncy, and amusing, though Julie is never the piratical buccaneer the book’s cover seems to suggest. Meanwhile, Meyer’s cheery watercolors are as comfortable diagramming the different parts of a pirate vessel as they are rendering the dread pirate captain himself.

A nifty high-seas caper for chapter-book readers with a love of adventure and a yearning for treasure. (Adventure. 7-9)

Pub Date: June 23, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-385-37544-3

Page Count: 80

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: March 17, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2015

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A launch-pad fizzle.

THE ULTIMATE BOOK OF SPACE

Flaps and pull-tabs in assorted astro-scenes reveal several wonders of the universe as well as inside glimpses of observatories, rockets, a space suit, and the International Space Station.

Interactive features include a spinnable Milky Way, pop-up launches of Ariane and Soyuz rockets, a solar-system tour, visits to the surfaces of the moon and Mars, and cutaway views beneath long, thin flaps of an international array of launch vehicles. Despite these bells and whistles, this import is far from ready for liftoff. Not only has Antarctica somehow gone missing from the pop-up globe, but Baumann’s commentary (at least in Booker’s translation from the French original) shows more enthusiasm than strict attention to accuracy. Both Mercury and Venus are designated “hottest planet” (right answer: Venus); claims that there is no gravity in space and that black holes are a type of star are at best simplistic; and “we do not know what [other galaxies] actually look like” is nonsensical. Moreover, in a clumsy attempt to diversify the cast on a spread about astronaut training, Latyk gives an (evidently) Asian figure caricatured slit eyes and yellow skin.

A launch-pad fizzle. (Informational pop-up picture book. 7-9)

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 2016

ISBN: 979-1-02760-197-4

Page Count: 24

Publisher: Chronicle Books

Review Posted Online: Aug. 30, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2016

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