From the Ultimate Spotlight series

A fact-packed venture into one of nature’s busier biomes.

From France, a teeming gallery of wild creatures posing in plain sight or hiding beneath flaps.

Two young human guides on the title page, one brown-skinned, one pink, beckon little explorers to open up a succession of spreads with varied effects. It begins with a big 3-D panorama of rainforest layers from understory to emergent layer and goes on to present dozens of creatures blending in to their densely leafed surroundings, hanging out in family groups, gliding through the air, and, finally, at rest in daylight and—beneath a double gatefold—at night. None of the flora is identified, but nearly every animal comes with a label, usually in boldface, and many with a basic descriptive or behavioral fact or observation: “The vine snake is very thin. It looks just like…a vine!” Some tropical settings are specified, but others are left generic. Though it’s startling on one page to see a rhino and an orangutan seemingly about the same size, however, the ensembles of flat but generally accurately detailed animals in each scene are consistently drawn from at least the same geographical region. For more hands-on learners, two pop-ups, a pull-tab, a big spinner, and lots of small flaps that are often pleasantly challenging to spot amid the busy backgrounds offer plenty of engagement.

A fact-packed venture into one of nature’s busier biomes. (Informational pop-up picture book. 6-9)

Pub Date: March 2, 2021

ISBN: 979-1-02760-877-5

Page Count: 14

Publisher: Twirl/Chronicle

Review Posted Online: March 1, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2021


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


From the Over and Under series

More thoughtful, sometimes exhilarating encounters with nature.

In a new entry in the Over and Under series, a paddleboarder glimpses humpback whales leaping, floats over a populous kelp forest, and explores life on a beach and in a tide pool.

In this tale inspired by Messner’s experiences in Monterey Bay in California, a young tan-skinned narrator, along with their light-skinned mom and tan-skinned dad, observes in quiet, lyrical language sights and sounds above and below the sea’s serene surface. Switching perspectives and angles of view and often leaving the family’s red paddleboards just tiny dots bobbing on distant swells, Neal’s broad seascapes depict in precise detail bat stars and anchovies, kelp bass, and sea otters going about their business amid rocky formations and the swaying fronds of kelp…and, further out, graceful moon jellies and—thrillingly—massive whales in open waters beneath gliding pelicans and other shorebirds. After returning to the beach at day’s end to search for shells and to spot anemones and decorator crabs, the child ends with nighttime dreams of stars in the sky meeting stars in the sea. Appended nature notes on kelp and 21 other types of sealife fill in details about patterns and relationships in this rich ecosystem. (This book was reviewed digitally.)

More thoughtful, sometimes exhilarating encounters with nature. (author’s note, further reading) (Informational picture book. 6-9)

Pub Date: Sept. 13, 2022

ISBN: 978-1-79720-347-8

Page Count: 56

Publisher: Chronicle Books

Review Posted Online: June 21, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2022

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