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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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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An inspiring call to action for all who care about our interconnected planet.

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WE ARE WATER PROTECTORS

In this tribute to Native resilience, Indigenous author-and-illustrator team Lindstrom and Goade invite readers to stand up for environmental justice.

“Water is the first medicine,” a young, unnamed protagonist reflects as she wades into a river with her grandmother. “We come from water.” Stunning illustrations, rich in symbolism from the creators’ respective Ojibwe and Tlingit/Haida lineages, bring the dark-haired, brown-skinned child’s narrative to life as she recounts an Anishinaabe prophecy: One day, a “black snake” will terrorize her community and threaten water, animals, and land. “Now the black snake is here,” the narrator proclaims, connecting the legend to the present-day threat of oil pipelines being built on Native lands. Though its image is fearsome, younger audiences aren’t likely to be frightened due to Goade’s vibrant, uplifting focus on collective power. Awash in brilliant colors and atmospheric studies of light, the girl emphasizes the importance of protecting “those who cannot fight for themselves” and understanding that on Earth, “we are all related.” Themes of ancestry, community responsibility, and shared inheritance run throughout. Where the brave protagonist is depicted alongside her community, the illustrations feature people of all ages, skin tones, and clothing styles. Lindstrom’s powerful message includes non-Native and Native readers alike: “We are stewards of the Earth. We are water protectors.”

An inspiring call to action for all who care about our interconnected planet. (author’s note, glossary, illustrator’s note, Water Protector pledge) (Picture book. 5-12)

Pub Date: March 17, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-250-20355-7

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Roaring Brook

Review Posted Online: Dec. 8, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2020

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