A tale that’s part high jinks, part detailed science lesson, which will appeal to a specific niche of young readers.

JIMI & ISAAC 4A: SOLAR POWERED

From the Jimi & Isaac Books series

A young, smug scientist gets more than he bargained for in this middle-grade story.

Isaac Farmer is sure that he’ll win the school science fair. His “PTB Energy House” is mostly lifted from things he found on the internet, but he’s still able to charm the judges into thinking the project is a genuine example of a new alternative energy source. But when he includes a secret insult to alternative-energy technology in the project’s title, things go south. His science teacher arranges a meeting with his parents and the principal. If Isaac wants to attend the state science fair, the principal says, he’ll have to change his project, and to make that happen, he’s calling in help. Professor “Bowtie” Murphy agrees to mentor the boy while he builds real technology for the fair with the help of a former student who owns a solar-tech company. Soon, Isaac takes a shine to the project. When Isaac’s friend Jimi accidentally adds a gross ingredient to his solar panel, the result is electric—and the grown-ups are keen to figure out its secret. After further experiments and encounters with lawyers, there’s a public unveiling of the solar panel that’s also a test of Isaac’s social skills. Rink (Jimi & Isaac 3a: The Mars Mission, 2010, etc.) makes sure that there’s no shortage of tangible scientific information in this story, from an explanation of a matrix that Isaac creates to a discussion of photoelectric chemicals. The amount of technical jargon, though, may deter readers who aren’t already devoted to science. It’s also a little hard to believe that a key element of the story is Isaac’s smart-aleck behavior, as the most egregious act that he engages in is using the word “duh” as a constant retort. In addition, the chapters in which grown-ups do most of the talking tend to drag. However, those that feature Isaac and Jimi being giggling middle schoolers feel authentic.

A tale that’s part high jinks, part detailed science lesson, which will appeal to a specific niche of young readers.

Pub Date: April 5, 2011

ISBN: 978-1-4564-2254-7

Page Count: 130

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: Oct. 18, 2017

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THE PUMPKIN BOOK

The Pumpkin Book (32 pp.; $16.95; Sept. 15; 0-8234-1465-5): From seed to vine and blossom to table, Gibbons traces the growth cycle of everyone’s favorite autumn symbol—the pumpkin. Meticulous drawings detail the transformation of tiny seeds to the colorful gourds that appear at roadside stands and stores in the fall. Directions for planting a pumpkin patch, carving a jack-o’-lantern, and drying the seeds give young gardeners the instructions they need to grow and enjoy their own golden globes. (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: Sept. 15, 1999

ISBN: 0-8234-1465-5

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Holiday House

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 1999

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SILVER RAIN BROWN

The hazy hot summer seems interminable for a young African-American boy and his pregnant mother. “Can’t cool down!” is the refrain that reverberates throughout the tale, and it’s literally true; lack of rain has put the city on a water conservation alert and the mother worries about all her flowers. Instead of despairing, mother and child surreptitiously water the plants using kitchen pots under the cloak of darkness; the theme of personal resilience and coping permeates the tale. A cooling, life-giving rain heralds the onset of the mother’s labor and the arrival of a new baby sister, Silver Rain Brown. The special bond between mother and son is readily apparent in Flavin’s full-page, full-color illustrations. As for the father, there is only one reference for readers to interpret: “Four a.m. and I can’t sleep, wishing Daddy would come back, wishing, wishing it would rain.” Helldorfer deftly captures the heavy oppressiveness of a summer heat wave, from children attempting to fry eggs on the sidewalk to short tempers and sleeping the hot days away, while Flavin’s illustrations artfully reflect the shimmering cityscapes. (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: March 1, 1999

ISBN: 0-395-73093-7

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Houghton Mifflin

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 1999

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