HOW TO BUILD AN INSECT

While ostensibly giving instructions on creating a 3-D insect replica, art and text teach the rudiments of entomology.

The initial double-page spread shows a dark room cluttered with cleaning supplies, a small drafting table, and scientific paraphernalia including a full-length human skeleton. An opening door at the left sheds light on the room’s contents while also revealing the brown-skinned arm and leg of someone entering, carrying a large jar whose contents will be revealed at the next page turn. The first words, in bold, white, playful type: “Let’s build an insect. Where should we start?” The next double-page spread answers the question by mentioning that humans have heads, so “Let’s give our insect a head.” Spread by spread, questions are asked and then answered by the invisible narrator, as the pair of hands that carried the jar into the room follows directions and uses art supplies to create a colorful, attractive creature. Attention-grabbing, clever art accompanies the whimsical text as it lightly compares insect anatomy with that of humans and other animals, notes basic body parts and some differences among insects, and explains vocabulary such as ocelli and mandibles. Especially droll: music entering a cricket’s “knee ears” and an insect gasping because it needs holes in its exoskeleton rather than lungs. The conversational narration ends with a bit of a thud, though, given its lively tone throughout. Older readers will appreciate a final spread that gives further information in a straightforward manner.

Distinctive and fun. (glossary, activity) (Informational picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: April 6, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-5415-7811-1

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Millbrook/Lerner

Review Posted Online: Feb. 9, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2021

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A good overview of this complex, essential organ, with an energetic seasoning of silliness.

THE BRAIN IS KIND OF A BIG DEAL

An introduction to the lead guitar and vocalist for the Brainiacs—the human brain.

The brain (familiar to readers of Seluk’s “The Awkward Yeti” webcomic, which spun off the adult title Heart and Brain, 2015) looks like a dodgeball with arms and legs—pinkish, sturdy, and roundish, with a pair of square-framed spectacles bestowing an air of importance and hipness. Other organs of the body—tongue, lungs, stomach, muscle, and heart—are featured as members of the brain’s rock band (the verso of the dust jacket is a poster of the band). Seluk’s breezy, conversational prose and brightly colored, boldly outlined cartoon illustrations deliver basic information. The brain’s role in keeping the heart beating and other automatic functions, directing body movements, interpreting sights and sounds, remembering smells and tastes, and regulating sleep and hunger are all explained, prose augmented by dialogue balloons and information sidebars. Seluk points out, importantly, that feelings originate in the brain: “You can control how you react…but your feelings happen no matter what.” The parodied album covers on the front endpapers (including the Beatles, Pink Floyd, Green Day, Run DMC, Queen, Nirvana) will amuse parents—or at least grandparents—and the rear endpapers serve up band members’ clever social media and texting screenshots. Backmatter includes a glossary and further brain trivia but no resources or bibliography.

A good overview of this complex, essential organ, with an energetic seasoning of silliness. (Informational picture book. 6-8)

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-338-16700-9

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Orchard/Scholastic

Review Posted Online: June 23, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2019

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For many readers, uneasy optics will take the fun out of this romp.

LLAMA UNLEASHES THE ALPACALYPSE

From the Llama Book series

Llamas, alpacas, and clones—oh my!

In this sequel to Llama Destroys the World (2019), hapless Llama once again wreaks unintentional, large-scale havoc—but this time, he (sort of) saves the day, too. After making an epic breakfast (and epic mess), Llama decides to build a machine that will enable him to avoid cleaning up. No, not a vacuum or dishwasher: It’s a machine that Llama uses to clone his friend “of impeccable tidiness,” Alpaca, in order to create an “army of cleaners.” Cream-colored Llama and light-brown Alpaca, both male, are pear shaped with short, stubby legs, bland expressions, and bulging eyes. Paired with the cartoon illustrations, the text’s comic timing shines: “Llama invited Alpaca over for lunch. / Llama invited Alpaca into the Replicator 3000. / And then, Llama invited disaster.” Soon the house is full of smiling Alpacas in purple scalloped aprons, single-mindedly cleaning—and, as one might expect, things don’t go as planned. Mealtimes (i.e. “second lunch” and dinner) offer opportunities for the “alpacalypse” to emerge from Llama’s house into the wider world. Everyday life grinds to a halt as the myriad Alpacas bearing mops, dusters, and plungers continue their cleaning crusade with no signs of stopping. That is, until the Alpacas realize they are hungry….It’s all very funny, but the sight of the paler-coated Llama exploiting the darker-coated Alpaca, for whom nothing brings “more joy than cleaning,” is an uncomfortable one.

For many readers, uneasy optics will take the fun out of this romp. (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: May 5, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-250-22285-5

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Henry Holt

Review Posted Online: March 29, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2020

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