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From the Brainiac's series

A broad, breezy once-over.

A wide-angle look at the past, present, and promising future of cybernetics.

Starting out with a superficial checklist designed to distinguish robots from “non-bots” (“Does it move?” “Is it automatic?”) and a list of machines (readers must decide whether they are robots; answers are provided in the backmatter), Virr goes on to an equally quick gallery of automata from the ancient world to the 18th-century “Digesting Duck,” then rushes headlong past modern robot construction and design, programming, common current or potential uses for work and for play, and finally prospective employment in near-future industry, medicine, and space exploration. Aside from a single glancing mention that robotic cars could cause taxi and delivery drivers to “lose work,” he keeps the outlook of a robotic future rosy—blithely minimizing the danger of artificial intelligences taking over in a “technological singularity” and citing author Isaac Asimov’s fictive three Laws of Robotics as if they were actually achievable. Still, in conjunction with a mix of stock photos and Russell’s cartoon figures and cutaway views, he does offer younger readers basic understandings of how mechanical motion is generated, algorithmic programming, and present and future possibilities while keeping the tone light with jolly interjections (“Come on Sci-Fido, time for cyber-walkies!”) and talking heads exchanging robot jokes throughout. Humans depicted are diverse.

A broad, breezy once-over. (timeline, glossary, index) (Nonfiction. 8-10)

Pub Date: May 23, 2023

ISBN: 9780500652862

Page Count: 64

Publisher: Thames & Hudson

Review Posted Online: March 28, 2023

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2023

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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

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A stimulating outing to the furthest reaches of our knowledge, certain to inspire deep thoughts.

From a Caldecott and Sibert honoree, an invitation to take a mind-expanding journey from the surface of our planet to the furthest reaches of the observable cosmos.

Though Chin’s assumption that we are even capable of understanding the scope of the universe is quixotic at best, he does effectively lead viewers on a journey that captures a sense of its scale. Following the model of Kees Boeke’s classic Cosmic View: The Universe in Forty Jumps (1957), he starts with four 8-year-old sky watchers of average height (and different racial presentations). They peer into a telescope and then are comically startled by the sudden arrival of an ostrich that is twice as tall…and then a giraffe that is over twice as tall as that…and going onward and upward, with ellipses at each page turn connecting the stages, past our atmosphere and solar system to the cosmic web of galactic superclusters. As he goes, precisely drawn earthly figures and features in the expansive illustrations give way to ever smaller celestial bodies and finally to glimmering swirls of distant lights against gulfs of deep black before ultimately returning to his starting place. A closing recap adds smaller images and additional details. Accompanying the spare narrative, valuable side notes supply specific lengths or distances and define their units of measure, accurately explain astronomical phenomena, and close with the provocative observation that “the observable universe is centered on us, but we are not in the center of the entire universe.”

A stimulating outing to the furthest reaches of our knowledge, certain to inspire deep thoughts. (afterword, websites, further reading) (Informational picture book. 8-10)

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-8234-4623-0

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Neal Porter/Holiday House

Review Posted Online: April 11, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2020

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