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

STEEL DRUMS

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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A good overview of this complex, essential organ, with an energetic seasoning of silliness.

THE BRAIN IS KIND OF A BIG DEAL

An introduction to the lead guitar and vocalist for the Brainiacs—the human brain.

The brain (familiar to readers of Seluk’s “The Awkward Yeti” webcomic, which spun off the adult title Heart and Brain, 2015) looks like a dodgeball with arms and legs—pinkish, sturdy, and roundish, with a pair of square-framed spectacles bestowing an air of importance and hipness. Other organs of the body—tongue, lungs, stomach, muscle, and heart—are featured as members of the brain’s rock band (the verso of the dust jacket is a poster of the band). Seluk’s breezy, conversational prose and brightly colored, boldly outlined cartoon illustrations deliver basic information. The brain’s role in keeping the heart beating and other automatic functions, directing body movements, interpreting sights and sounds, remembering smells and tastes, and regulating sleep and hunger are all explained, prose augmented by dialogue balloons and information sidebars. Seluk points out, importantly, that feelings originate in the brain: “You can control how you react…but your feelings happen no matter what.” The parodied album covers on the front endpapers (including the Beatles, Pink Floyd, Green Day, Run DMC, Queen, Nirvana) will amuse parents—or at least grandparents—and the rear endpapers serve up band members’ clever social media and texting screenshots. Backmatter includes a glossary and further brain trivia but no resources or bibliography.

A good overview of this complex, essential organ, with an energetic seasoning of silliness. (Informational picture book. 6-8)

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-338-16700-9

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Orchard/Scholastic

Review Posted Online: June 23, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2019

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It’s nothing new in territory or angle, but it’s still a serviceable survey with reasonably durable moving parts.

THE ULTIMATE BOOK OF PLANET EARTH

Flaps, pull tabs, and pop-ups large and small enhance views of our planet’s inside, outside, atmosphere, biosphere, and geophysics.

It’s a hefty, high-speed tour through Earth’s features, climates, and natural resources, with compressed surveys of special topics on multileveled flaps and a spread on the history of life that is extended by a double-foldout wing. But even when teeming with small images of land forms, wildlife, or diverse groups of children and adults, Balicevic’s bright cartoon illustrations look relatively uncrowded. Although the quality of the paper engineering is uneven, the special effects add dramatic set pieces: Readers need to hold in place a humongous column of cumulonimbus clouds for it to reach its full extension; a volcano erupts in a gratifyingly large scale; and, on the plate-tectonics spread, a pull tab gives readers the opportunity to run the Indian Plate into the Eurasian one and see the Himalayas bulge up. A final spread showing resources, mostly renewable ones, being tapped ends with an appeal to protect “our only home.” All in all, it’s a likely alternative to Dougal Jerram’s Utterly Amazing Earth, illustrated by Dan Crisp and Molly Lattin (2017), being broader in scope and a bit more generous in its level of detail.

It’s nothing new in territory or angle, but it’s still a serviceable survey with reasonably durable moving parts. (Informational novelty. 6-9)

Pub Date: Aug. 27, 2019

ISBN: 979-1-02760-562-0

Page Count: 18

Publisher: Twirl/Chronicle

Review Posted Online: July 24, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2019

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