Serviceable but nothing to roar about.



From the Ranger Rick series

Can the venerable I Can Read line attract beginning readers with facts?

For decades these popular, often humorous leveled readers featuring well-known characters (Pinkalicious, Fancy Nancy, Amelia Bedelia, Danny and the Dinosaur, and more) have provided practice in reading skills. For its 60th anniversary publisher Harper has partnered with the National Wildlife Federation’s Ranger Rick magazine and website and tapped veteran science writer Markle to broaden their reach. Questions about lions, including life in a pride, how lions communicate, how lions learn, what lions eat, where lions sleep, and lions’ grooming habits, introduce topics and are highlighted in green. Simple repetitive answers are printed in a clear, black type. Each behavior is illustrated by attractive stock photos from the NWF archives. Ranger Rick, NWF’s iconic cartoon raccoon mascot, interrupts the flow of facts with additional speculative questions, such as “How could teamwork help you?” Intriguing facts that do not fit the format are included in a “Did you know?” section. A “Fun Zone” page explains that lions are very fast and challenges readers to test their own reaction times. “Wild Words” offers a seven-word glossary. “Dig Deeper” refers parents or teachers to the Ranger Rick website. None of this, however, is quite enough to grab the attention of new readers raised on live-action wildlife television.

Serviceable but nothing to roar about. (Informational early reader. 5-9)

Pub Date: Oct. 17, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-06-243205-6

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Aug. 2, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2017

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A beautifully told and illustrated story that offers a unique perspective on both war and humanity


When the war comes to Syria, many flee, but Alaa stays in his beloved city, Aleppo, where he continues to work as an ambulance driver and helps the wounded to safety.

Day after day, he misses his family and friends who have left, wondering where they are and how they are doing. His neighborhood empties—except for cats! However, these cats are affected by the conflict too; they’re left behind with shelters destroyed and food and water stringently limited. Alaa, who has a big heart, starts taking care of them using the little money he has. The love between man and cats multiplies, and many people from around the world step up to help. Soon, the cats of Aleppo get a pleasant shelter set in a courtyard. However, Alaa does not stop there and goes on to help other animals and more people, spreading joy, love, and hope. Based on a true story, this picture book is distinctive for its engaging narrative and impeccable illustrations. It is also enriched with notes from Alaa himself (the real one) as well as the authors and illustrator. The often-dramatic images offer a glimpse of the city prior to the conflict and a window on the real people who experience war and try to survive and help others around them.

A beautifully told and illustrated story that offers a unique perspective on both war and humanity . (Picture book. 6-9)

Pub Date: April 14, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-9848-1378-7

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Putnam

Review Posted Online: Jan. 12, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2020

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Science at its best: informative and gross.


Why not? Because “IT’S FULL OF GERMS.”

Of course, Ben-Barak rightly notes, so is everything else—from your socks to the top of Mount Everest. Just to demonstrate, he invites readers to undertake an exploratory adventure (only partly imaginary): First touch a certain seemingly blank spot on the page to pick up a microbe named Min, then in turn touch teeth, shirt, and navel to pick up Rae, Dennis, and Jake. In the process, readers watch crews of other microbes digging cavities (“Hey kid, brush your teeth less”), spreading “lovely filth,” and chowing down on huge rafts of dead skin. For the illustrations, Frost places dialogue balloons and small googly-eyed cartoon blobs of diverse shape and color onto Rundgren’s photographs, taken using a scanning electron microscope, of the fantastically rugged surfaces of seemingly smooth paper, a tooth, textile fibers, and the jumbled crevasses in a belly button. The tour concludes with more formal introductions and profiles for Min and the others: E. coli, Streptococcus, Aspergillus niger, and Corynebacteria. “Where will you take Min tomorrow?” the author asks teasingly. Maybe the nearest bar of soap.

Science at its best: informative and gross. (Informational picture book. 6-9)

Pub Date: June 5, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-250-17536-6

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Neal Porter/Roaring Brook

Review Posted Online: April 16, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2018

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