Science writing at its grossest and best, though as the title (not to mention the blood-spattered pages) warns, not for the...

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ZOMBIE MAKERS

TRUE STORIES OF NATURE'S UNDEAD

Solid (sometimes writhing) proof that the scariest zombie flicks have nothing on Nature.

To demonstrate that there are indeed real zombies—“closer than you think”—Johnson (Journey into the Deep, 2010; iPad app, 2011) introduces a select set of fungi, worms, viruses and wasps that invade the bodies and take over the brains of their victims. Enhanced by large and often deliciously disturbing color photos, her descriptions of each parasite’s life cycle is both specific and astonishing; not only does the fungus O. unilateralis force a carpenter ant to clamp itself to a leaf (before sending a long reproductive stalk out of its head) for instance, it even somehow strengthens the ant’s mouth muscles. The author tracks similarly focused physical and behavioral changes not just in insects, but in other creatures too, including rabies-infected mammals. Lest human readers feel left out of the picture, she mentions the protozoan T. gondii, which causes rats to engage in reckless behavior and also has infected up to a quarter of all the adults and teens in this country. In each chapter, Johnson reports back on conversations with scientists engaged in relevant research, and she closes with a quick look at telling signs in the fossil record.

Science writing at its grossest and best, though as the title (not to mention the blood-spattered pages) warns, not for the squeamish. (author's note, glossary, notes, bibliography, further reading, index) (Nonfiction. 10-13)

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-7613-8633-9

Page Count: 48

Publisher: Millbrook/Lerner

Review Posted Online: July 18, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2012

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An almost-orphan and a rescue dog share lots of heart in a winsome coming-of-age story.

A HOME FOR GODDESSES AND DOGS

After her mother succumbs to heart disease, 13-year-old Lydia goes to live with her mother’s older sister, Aunt Brat, and her wife, Eileen, in their small Connecticut town.

Almost immediately the loving couple adopts a large rescue dog that becomes mostly Lydia’s responsibility. The unfortunate animal isn’t even housebroken, and Lydia’s most decidedly not a dog person, so caring for Guffer is challenging. So is trying to be cordial—but not too friendly—with her 12 eighth grade classmates. Previously home-schooled, Lydia’s not quite ready for the friend thing. Secrets, like who could have been responsible for maiming two baby goats or why Brat is secretly caring for them at a neighbor’s farm, complicate life. Background plotlines (an angry neighbor who hates Guffer, Lydia’s absent father, and the cause of Guffer’s anxieties) all gradually evolve. Similarly, Lydia slowly learns to cope with her grief, sometimes aided by spending time with “the goddesses”—artistic collages of strong women that she and her mother crafted. Gentle, fully fleshed characters (most seemingly white) are lovingly drawn in this long tale of healing, but the pacing is sometimes frustratingly slow. Although she’s clearly intelligent, Lydia’s first-person narrative often seems more like the voice of an adult than a young teen. In spite of these minor flaws, her poignant tale is engaging and uplifting.

An almost-orphan and a rescue dog share lots of heart in a winsome coming-of-age story. (Fiction.10-13)

Pub Date: Feb. 25, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-06-279678-3

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Katherine Tegen/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Oct. 9, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2019

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A multilayered, endearing treasure of a day.

MY DAY WITH GONG GONG

Spending a day with Gong Gong doesn’t sound like very much fun to May.

Gong Gong doesn’t speak English, and May doesn’t know Chinese. How can they have a good day together? As they stroll through an urban Chinatown, May’s perpetually sanguine maternal grandfather chats with friends and visits shops. At each stop, Cantonese words fly back and forth, many clearly pointed at May, who understands none of it. It’s equally exasperating trying to communicate with Gong Gong in English, and by the time they join a card game in the park with Gong Gong’s friends, May is tired, hungry, and frustrated. But although it seems like Gong Gong hasn’t been attentive so far, when May’s day finally comes to a head, it is clear that he has. First-person text gives glimpses into May’s lively thoughts as they evolve through the day, and Gong Gong’s unchangingly jolly face reflects what could be mistaken for blithe obliviousness but is actually his way of showing love through sharing the people and places of his life. Through adorable illustrations that exude humor and warmth, this portrait of intergenerational affection is also a tribute to life in Chinatown neighborhoods: Street vendors, a busker playing a Chinese violin, a dim sum restaurant, and more all combine to add a distinctive texture. 

A multilayered, endearing treasure of a day. (glossary) (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: Sept. 8, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-77321-429-0

Page Count: 36

Publisher: Annick Press

Review Posted Online: June 30, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2020

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A sure draw for the Kung-Fu Panda crowd, high on body count but low on gory details, it doesn't take itself too seriously...

THE BATTLE OF RIPTIDE

From the Shark Wars series , Vol. 2

Toothy rivals introduced in the opener, Shark Wars (2011), unite in the sequel to battle an army of shark invaders from the far end of the Big Blue.

Having learned that he’s not fat (or “big-cartilaged,” as he prefers to put it) but a supersized prehistoric Megalodon, young Gray is propelled into playing a leading role in repelling a disciplined force of shark troops from Indi, led by King Finnivus, a spoiled and vicious brat with visions of world conquest. Fortunately, Gray is being tutored in martial “Shar-kata” by Takiza, an ancient and bad-tempered betta (Siamese fighting fish). He also finds common purpose with other “shivers” (the basic shark communal unit—though more open-minded shivers admit other species too) and discovers unexpected allies who arrive (thanks to Takiza’s ability to span entire oceans with magical speed) in the nick of time to turn the tide of the climactic battle. When Gray cries, or pants with exhaustion, the overall anthropomorphic conceit wears thin, but Altbacker expends some effort concocting his undersea setting and fills out the finny cast with familiar martial-arts–style character types.

A sure draw for the Kung-Fu Panda crowd, high on body count but low on gory details, it doesn't take itself too seriously and is fully sequel-enabled. (Animal fantasy. 10-12)

Pub Date: Dec. 13, 2011

ISBN: 978-1-59514-377-8

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Razorbill/Penguin

Review Posted Online: Sept. 14, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2011

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