Absorbing and entertaining—sure to have readers gazing at earthworms with a newfound, and deserved, appreciation.

A lively treatment of the No. 2 area of Charles Darwin’s interest in the natural world.

Fascinated by earthworms, Darwin felt that they had more going for them than Victorian-era science gave them credit for. At that time, worms were considered “pests,” so Darwin set out to discover the lowly worm’s redeeming feature—its “superpower,” in this story’s accessible vernacular. First, he tested their eyesight (but discovered they have no eyes), then their hearing (no ears either). He did determine, though, that, in lieu of eyes and ears, a worm’s skin has receptors that sense vibrations as well as light and dark. Then Darwin realized that worms have a sense of smell for foods they like. But none of these, he felt, were really the superpower to change people’s minds about worms. Quite by accident, Darwin stumbled on the lowly earthworm’s superpower, and an amazing one it is—their poop helps make soil healthier, which in turn results in the plants and vegetables people depend on. As instructive as it is amusing, this story matches perky dialogue bubbles and text (narrated by an endearing bespectacled worm in a mortarboard) with winsome illustrations with just enough detail to amplify the storyline, all the while underscoring the significance of Darwin’s research. Secondary characters are diverse. (This book was reviewed digitally.)

Absorbing and entertaining—sure to have readers gazing at earthworms with a newfound, and deserved, appreciation. (facts about worms, link to the Earthworm Society’s website) (Informational picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: Jan. 3, 2023

ISBN: 978-0-7112-7597-3

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Wide Eyed Editions

Review Posted Online: Oct. 25, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2022


Blandly inspirational fare made to evoke equally shrink-wrapped responses.

An NBA star pays tribute to the influence of his grandfather.

In the same vein as his Long Shot (2009), illustrated by Frank Morrison, this latest from Paul prioritizes values and character: “My granddad Papa Chilly had dreams that came true,” he writes, “so maybe if I listen and watch him, / mine will too.” So it is that the wide-eyed Black child in the simply drawn illustrations rises early to get to the playground hoops before anyone else, watches his elder working hard and respecting others, hears him cheering along with the rest of the family from the stands during games, and recalls in a prose afterword that his grandfather wasn’t one to lecture but taught by example. Paul mentions in both the text and the backmatter that Papa Chilly was the first African American to own a service station in North Carolina (his presumed dream) but not that he was killed in a robbery, which has the effect of keeping the overall tone positive and the instructional content one-dimensional. Figures in the pictures are mostly dark-skinned. (This book was reviewed digitally.)

Blandly inspirational fare made to evoke equally shrink-wrapped responses. (Picture book. 6-8)

Pub Date: Jan. 10, 2023

ISBN: 978-1-250-81003-8

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Roaring Brook Press

Review Posted Online: Sept. 27, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2022


A gleeful game for budding naturalists.

Artfully cropped animal portraits challenge viewers to guess which end they’re seeing.

In what will be a crowd-pleasing and inevitably raucous guessing game, a series of close-up stock photos invite children to call out one of the titular alternatives. A page turn reveals answers and basic facts about each creature backed up by more of the latter in a closing map and table. Some of the posers, like the tail of an okapi or the nose on a proboscis monkey, are easy enough to guess—but the moist nose on a star-nosed mole really does look like an anus, and the false “eyes” on the hind ends of a Cuyaba dwarf frog and a Promethea moth caterpillar will fool many. Better yet, Lavelle saves a kicker for the finale with a glimpse of a small parasitical pearlfish peeking out of a sea cucumber’s rear so that the answer is actually face and butt. “Animal identification can be tricky!” she concludes, noting that many of the features here function as defenses against attack: “In the animal world, sometimes your butt will save your face and your face just might save your butt!” (This book was reviewed digitally.)

A gleeful game for budding naturalists. (author’s note) (Informational picture book. 6-8)

Pub Date: July 11, 2023

ISBN: 9781728271170

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Sourcebooks eXplore

Review Posted Online: May 9, 2023

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2023

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