A winning mix of solid fact and undisguised fun.

WHAT IF YOU COULD SNIFF LIKE A SHARK?

EXPLORE THE SUPERPOWERS OF OCEAN ANIMALS

From the What if You Had . . .? series

Wouldn’t you want stinging tentacles or superpowerful crab claws?

Markle and McWilliam continue their tour of the animal sphere begun with What If You Had Animal Teeth? (2013). Markle supplies scientific descriptions of nine marine creatures accompanied by photographic close-ups and realistic renderings, and McWilliam adds big, funny cartoon views of a thoroughly diverse cast of chimerically altered children sporting, essentially, superpowers. Who, after all, wouldn’t love to have the ability to squeeze through a chain-link fence like the giant Pacific octopus, slide over an icy sidewalk in the shell of a loggerhead sea turtle, or blow up like a starry pufferfish to float over a parade? Each animal is given two double-page spreads. On the first, a photograph appears on the verso, with a lively paragraph explaining the attribute explored, while McWilliam’s illustration on recto comically imagines a human child exploiting that attribute. The following double-page spread provides further information including size, life span, and diet along with information about juveniles of the species and another cartoon. Appealing equally to curiosity about the real world and to readers’ sense of play, this makes a natural companion for other eye-widening explorations of the deep like Corrine Demas and Artemis Roerig’s Do Jellyfish Like Peanut Butter?, illustrated by Ellen Shi (2020), and Brenda Z. Guiberson’s The Most Amazing Creature in the Sea, illustrated by Gennady Spirin (2015).

A winning mix of solid fact and undisguised fun. (Informational picture book. 7-9)

Pub Date: June 2, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-338-35607-6

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Scholastic

Review Posted Online: Feb. 9, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2020

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

A promising debut spoiled by a design issue and cultural insensitivity.

HOOT AND HOWL ACROSS THE DESERT

LIFE IN THE WORLD'S DRIEST DESERTS

Creatively stylized images of flora and fauna native to some 15 deserts around the world.

Interspersing her examination with closer looks at camels and at sand dunes, the bird communities associated with acacia trees, and like intriguing sidelights, Tzomaka poses groups of select residents from all three types of desert (hot, cold, and coastal) against sere backdrops, with pithily informative comments on characteristic behaviors and survival strategies. But significant bits of her presentation are only semilegible, with black type placed on deep blue or purple backgrounds. And rarely (if ever) have desert animals looked so…floral. Along with opting for a palette of bright pinks, greens, and purples rather than natural hues for her flat, screen-print–style figures, Tzomaka decorates them with contrasting whirls of petals and twining flourishes, stars, scallops, pinwheels, and geometric lines or tessellations. Striking though these fancies are, artistic license has led her into some serious overgeneralizations, as she claims to be drawing on regional folk motifs for inspiration—justifying the ornate ruffs and borders on creatures of the Kalahari with a vague note that “African tribes make accessories and jewelry…decorated with repeated lines, circles and dots,” for instance, and identifying a Northwest Coastal pattern on an arctic fox as “Inuit.” Readers may find less shifty footing in more conventional outings like Jim Arnosky’s Watching Desert Wildlife (1998).

A promising debut spoiled by a design issue and cultural insensitivity. (map, index) (Informational picture book. 7-9)

Pub Date: April 21, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-500-65198-8

Page Count: 56

Publisher: Thames & Hudson

Review Posted Online: Feb. 26, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2020

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

Weirdly fascinating.

THE PIG WAR

HOW A PORCINE TRAGEDY TAUGHT ENGLAND AND AMERICA TO SHARE

“This is a true tale about two mighty nations, an ill-fated pig, and a most unusual war. It is also a story about sharing.”

That opening, in black, sans-serif lettering, is followed by further text that’s broken up by red-inked headings for date, setting, characters, and mood. Continuing a jaunty, lighthearted tone that proceeds throughout the text, it informs readers that the mood is “About to change, for the worse.” The verso sports an antique-looking map of the Western Hemisphere with a detail of San Juan—a Pacific Northwest coast island of, in 1859, ambiguous provenance inhabited both by British employees of the Hudson’s Bay Company and a few American settlers. (The original, Indigenous residents are relegated to a parenthetical mention in the author’s note and figure not at all in the story.) As the story begins, an American named Lyman Cutlar angrily kills Brit Charles Griffin’s pig as it eats from Cutlar’s potato patch. Cutlar apologizes and offers to pay for the pig but then refuses to pay Griffin’s exorbitant asking price. Enter authorities from both nations in an escalation that eventually involves scores of warships. When war seems inevitable, Gen. Winfield Scott is sent by President James Buchanan to mediate. The text is true to its introduction, and it also pursues the idea that hotheadedness leads to disastrous consequences. Vocabulary, verbosity, and content suit this for older elementary, independent readers. The storytelling goes a bit flat at the end, when Cutlar is mentioned but not Griffin. Colorful, stylized art against apparently distressed surfaces is an impeccable complement. (This book was reviewed digitally with 10-by-20-inch double-page spreads viewed at 42.6% of actual size.)

Weirdly fascinating. (photographs, timeline, resources, artist’s note) (Informational picture book. 7-9)

Pub Date: Nov. 10, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-68437-171-6

Page Count: 48

Publisher: Calkins Creek/Boyds Mills

Review Posted Online: Sept. 15, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2020

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet
more