CAN YOU HEAR THE TREES TALKING?

DISCOVERING THE HIDDEN LIFE OF THE FOREST

A child-friendly version of the popular adult title The Hidden Life of Trees (2016).

There is irony in the idea of revising for children an adult book that boldly challenges the conventional science that keeps humanity strongly detached from the plant kingdom. Indeed, many books for children already deliberately and effectively use terminology of human activities to introduce the vocabulary and rudiments of photosynthesis, and so does this text. The latter word never occurs here, although it states: “Leaves mix water with certain parts of the air to make sugar,” and notes the need for light to produce energy. It goes on to describe tree leaves as having thousands of tiny mouths for breathing and later notes that trees don’t drink in winter because “you can’t drink ice cubes.” Intense anthropomorphism continues throughout, with chapters discussing such topics as tree classrooms, mother trees, and how an “annoyed” birch tree will use the wind to whip its branches against an encroaching tree. Occasionally, readers will notice apparent contradictions, unlikely assumptions, and odd duplication, perhaps a result of the reduction. Nevertheless, the book is full of pertinent information, including the importance of fungi to roots and of trees to one another. The author transmits both wonder and fun, even adding tree-themed activities for children to try with willing adults. A forest’s worth of appealing sidebars, pop-up quizzes with fascinating statistics, and colorful photographs add to a strong subtext: Forest preservation is not just important, but imperative.

A tree-treatise treat. (Nonfiction. 8-12)

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-77164-434-1

Page Count: 84

Publisher: Greystone Kids

Review Posted Online: June 16, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2019

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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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Contentwise, an arbitrary assortment…but sure to draw fans of comics, of science, or of both.

FLASH FACTS

Flash, Batman, and other characters from the DC Comics universe tackle supervillains and STEM-related topics and sometimes, both.

Credited to 20 writers and illustrators in various combinations, the 10 episodes invite readers to tag along as Mera and Aquaman visit oceanic zones from epipelagic to hadalpelagic; Supergirl helps a young scholar pick a science-project topic by taking her on a tour of the solar system; and Swamp Thing lends Poison Ivy a hand to describe how DNA works (later joining Swamp Kid to scuttle a climate-altering scheme by Arcane). In other episodes, various costumed creations explain the ins and outs of diverse large- and small-scale phenomena, including electricity, atomic structure, forensic techniques, 3-D printing, and the lactate threshold. Presumably on the supposition that the characters will be more familiar to readers than the science, the minilectures tend to start from simple basics, but the figures are mostly both redrawn to look more childlike than in the comics and identified only in passing. Drawing styles and page designs differ from chapter to chapter but not enough to interrupt overall visual unity and flow—and the cast is sufficiently diverse to include roles for superheroes (and villains) of color like Cyborg, Kid Flash, and the Latina Green Lantern, Jessica Cruz. Appended lists of websites and science-based YouTube channels, plus instructions for homespun activities related to each episode, point inspired STEM-winders toward further discoveries.

Contentwise, an arbitrary assortment…but sure to draw fans of comics, of science, or of both. (Graphic nonfiction. 9-12)

Pub Date: Feb. 2, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-77950-382-4

Page Count: 160

Publisher: DC

Review Posted Online: Jan. 13, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2021

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