A lively narrative that ably combines rocket science, humor, and relatable characters.

JIMI & ISAAC 3A: THE MARS MISSION

From the Jimi & Isaac Books series

In this continuation of a middle-grade series, a middle schooler weathers setbacks and self-doubt in his quest to build a working Mars probe.

Mr. Berg, who takes guitar lessons from young Jimi’s dad, is a wealthy entrepreneur whose private aerospace company plans to send an astronaut into orbit around the Earth. When Jimi’s brainy best friend, Isaac, brags that building a small Mars probe would be no big deal, Jimi shrugs assent, so Mr. Berg calls their bluff. He gives the pair the basic criteria for the probe’s function, size, and weight, supplies them with funds, and names a deadline. If they succeed, he says, he’ll launch their probe from his orbiting rocket. Isaac takes the lead in the probe’s design but soon loses interest. When circumstances prod Jimi into seeing the project through, what began as a slapdash creation of cardboard and tape becomes a full-fledged science-fair project, and then a feasible, 3-D blueprint for a working probe. The novel relates this evolution in detail, framing the narrative as a scientific process of research, application, discussion, modification, and refinement. But Rink (Jimi and Isaac 2a: Keystone Species, 2014, etc.), a mechanical engineer, science-fair leader, and sports coach for kids, takes care that there’s nothing pedantic about Jimi’s bumpy ride to launch day. The soccer-playing, saxophone-playing, jazz-loving middle schooler observes his world with an authentic, humorous first-person voice. Jimi’s epiphany rings true when he’s struck by the fact that his fellow science-fair competitors have done “stuff that I never thought a kid could do,” that adults are interested in what they have to say, and that no one “told anybody to shut up all day.” As he sifts through research, his own and others’ “crazy ideas” and his sudden, “weird” leaps of insight, Rink’s message to readers is clear: that questions, mistakes, and a willingness to keep trying in the face of failure are integral to problem-solving and innovation—and that kids can be innovators, too.

A lively narrative that ably combines rocket science, humor, and relatable characters. 

Pub Date: Nov. 3, 2010

ISBN: 978-1-4563-0319-8

Page Count: 134

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: July 4, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2017

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Delicious on its own, and it will pair well with other books about gardens, plants and healthy eating habits.

PLANTS FEED ME

This simplest of informational picture books offers a sensible, sunny celebration of the plants—specifically the parts of plants—that we eat.

The opening scene shows a boy seated at table surrounded by a rich harvest. He’s holding a watermelon rind that mirrors the wide grin he wears, helping to set the good-natured tone of the book. As preschoolers examine the pages, they will learn about the featured fruits and vegetables and how they grew. Warm gouache-and–colored-pencil illustrations first depict a garden where “Plants reach up for the sun. / They grow down in the ground.” As the narrator goes on to explain that “I eat different parts from different plants,” such as roots, tubers, bulbs, stems, flowers and seeds, youngsters will find labeled images to peruse. The short, declarative sentences are easily digested by the very youngest and will tempt burgeoning readers to test their skills. Best of all, children will surely be inspired to taste some of the produce the next time it appears on their plates.

Delicious on its own, and it will pair well with other books about gardens, plants and healthy eating habits. (Informational picture book. 2-5)

Pub Date: April 1, 2014

ISBN: 978-0-8234-2526-6

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Holiday House

Review Posted Online: March 3, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2014

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THE LORAX

The greening of Dr. Seuss, in an ecology fable with an obvious message but a savingly silly style. In the desolate land of the Lifted Lorax, an aged creature called the Once-ler tells a young visitor how he arrived long ago in the then glorious country and began manufacturing anomalous objects called Thneeds from "the bright-colored tufts of the Truffula Trees." Despite protests from the Lorax, a native "who speaks for the trees," he continues to chop down Truffulas until he drives away the Brown Bar-ba-loots who had fed on the Tuffula fruit, the Swomee-Swans who can't sing a note for the smogulous smoke, and the Humming-Fish who had hummed in the pond now glumped up with Gluppity-Glupp. As for the Once-let, "1 went right on biggering, selling more Thneeds./ And I biggered my money, which everyone needs" — until the last Truffula falls. But one seed is left, and the Once-let hands it to his listener, with a message from the Lorax: "UNLESS someone like you/ cares a whole awful lot,/ nothing is going to get better./ It's not." The spontaneous madness of the old Dr. Seuss is absent here, but so is the boredom he often induced (in parents, anyway) with one ridiculous invention after another. And if the Once-let doesn't match the Grinch for sheer irresistible cussedness, he is stealing a lot more than Christmas and his story just might induce a generation of six-year-olds to care a whole lot.

Pub Date: Aug. 12, 1971

ISBN: 0394823370

Page Count: 72

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: Oct. 19, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 1971

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