Though STEAM is not emphasized as much as it was in the first book, that’s not a bad thing, as it helps readers to focus on...

GO GREEN!

From the Sydney & Simon series

In their second STEAM-powered exploration (Full STEAM Ahead!, 2014), mouse twins Sydney and Simon investigate the problem of garbage.

Sydney’s foray into trash tracking starts with a field trip to the aquarium, where a green sea turtle is recuperating after eating plastic. It doesn’t take much of a leap for Sydney to make a connection: “The more trash we make, the more there’s a chance that some of that trash could end up in the ocean.” The two keep a tally of their family’s trash for a week, and the results are eye-opening. Their school is an even larger garbage generator. Ms. Fractalini helps the twins use science, technology, engineering, arts, and math to come up with a way to raise awareness and encourage the community to participate in a solution. A sculpture of Greenie the turtle made out of trash and a song about going green are the start of a communitywide movement to reduce, reuse, and recycle. Along the way, readers will learn lots about decomposition, how quickly garbage adds up, and ways to reduce trash. Ink-and–watercolor-wash illustrations help break up the text and put pictures in readers’ heads that will stick with them, making them likely to want to get on the green bandwagon.

Though STEAM is not emphasized as much as it was in the first book, that’s not a bad thing, as it helps readers to focus on Sydney and Simon’s problem-solving, which they are likely to see as quite doable in their own communities. (glossary, author and illustrator’s note) (Fiction. 7-10)

Pub Date: Oct. 13, 2015

ISBN: 978-1-58089-677-1

Page Count: 48

Publisher: Charlesbridge

Review Posted Online: July 27, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2015

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Deliberately inspirational and tinged with nostalgia, this will please fans but may strike others as overly idealistic.

STICKS AND STONES

Veteran picture-book creator Polacco tells another story from her childhood that celebrates the importance of staying true to one’s own interests and values.

After years of spending summers with her father and grandmother, narrator Trisha is excited to be spending the school year in Michigan with them. Unexpectedly abandoned by her summertime friends, Trisha quickly connects with fellow outsiders Thom and Ravanne, who may be familiar to readers from Polacco’s The Junkyard Wonders (2010). Throughout the school year, the three enjoy activities together and do their best to avoid school bully Billy. While a physical confrontation between Thom (aka “Sissy Boy”) and Billy does come, so does an opportunity for Thom to defy convention and share his talent with the community. Loosely sketched watercolor illustrations place the story in the middle of the last century, with somewhat old-fashioned clothing and an apparently all-White community. Trisha and her classmates appear to be what today would be called middle schoolers; a reference to something Trisha and her mom did when she was “only eight” suggests that several years have passed since that time. As usual, the lengthy first-person narrative is cozily conversational but includes some challenging vocabulary (textiles, lackeys, foretold). The author’s note provides a brief update about her friends’ careers and encourages readers to embrace their own differences. (This book was reviewed digitally with 11-by-18-inch double-page spreads viewed at actual size.)

Deliberately inspirational and tinged with nostalgia, this will please fans but may strike others as overly idealistic. (Picture book. 7-10)

Pub Date: Oct. 6, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-5344-2622-1

Page Count: 48

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: Aug. 18, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2020

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A bubble-gum crowd pleaser with wide audience appeal.

OLGA AND THE SMELLY THING FROM NOWHERE

From the Olga series , Vol. 1

A young girl who prefers science to people discovers an adorable and smelly little creature.

With an inquisitive mind and a dark teardrop-shaped swoop of hair, Olga may not have many friends, but she loves animals and thinks even their "farts are cute." She studies them and carefully transcribes her observations; she hopes someday to hang out with Jane Goodall. When she hears a scary rumble in her trash can, Olga discovers Meh, a pudgy, smelly creature that she describes as a "cross between an inflated hamster and a potato drawn by a three-year-old." Like any good scientist-in-training, she observes Meh, trying to discern his habits and his diet. When Meh goes missing, Olga must recruit actual people to help her find him—including two pop-star–obsessed girls she calls "The Lalas," a friendly boy with a tall scribble of hair and an incontinent dog, a punk-rock librarian, and a goofy but helpful shopkeeper. Gravel's tale is a visually interesting mix of illustration and story, punctuated by numerous lists, comic panels, and cartoon diagrams and led by a smart female protagonist. Covering everything from zoology to poop jokes, Gravel has painted her tale with a broad brush that should render this an easy sell to most young readers. The human characters all have paper-white skin, and there is no other cueing of racial difference.

A bubble-gum crowd pleaser with wide audience appeal. (Graphic/fiction hybrid. 7-10)

Pub Date: March 14, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-06-235126-5

Page Count: 176

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Dec. 14, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2017

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