A decent choice for music classrooms, but its focus on a white American musician makes it a bust for another seemingly...


From the Made by Hand series

A chronicle of the history and production of steel drums.

Steel drumming began on Trinidad. Its African roots are made clear: West Africans forced into chattel slavery brought their drumming traditions with them to the island, but oppressive white slaveholders outlawed drumming. Even post-slavery the drumming ban continued, so the people adapted by using found materials such as biscuit tins and paint cans. During World War II, the U.S. built a base on Trinidad, and drummers used the 55-gallon oil containers to make drums. Ellie Mannette, an ingenious black Trini who would come to be known as the “Father of the Modern Steel Drum,” was one of the first to do this. The focus here shifts to Glenn Rowsey, a white U.S. steel drummer and steel-drum maker. Readers follow Rowsey through the fascinating process of creating a steel drum, which makes up the bulk of the book. The choice to highlight a white musician/craftsperson comes off as culturally tone deaf given the African/African diasporic roots of the art. Easy-to-understand text and plentiful full-color photos make this book accessible even for younger readers. Books on steel drumming are scarce, so it’s particularly disappointing that this book, while offering a good historical base, places white voices and experiences at its center.

A decent choice for music classrooms, but its focus on a white American musician makes it a bust for another seemingly natural application in units on Caribbean culture. (DIY instrument instructions, timeline, glossary, resources) (Nonfiction. 6-10)

Pub Date: Dec. 18, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-4814-7898-4

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Aladdin

Review Posted Online: Sept. 30, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2018

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Friends of these pollinators will be best served elsewhere.

1001 BEES

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 14, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2021

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A quick flight but a blast from first to last.


From the Everything Awesome About… series

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 27, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2021

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