Let this one fly away.

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THE BUG GIRL

MARIA MERIAN'S SCIENTIFIC VISION

Young Maria Merian had a passion for butterflies and moths that led to a lifelong, convention-defining career of natural-history illustration.

When the young artist was growing up in 17th-century Germany, butterflies and moths were thought to arise through spontaneous generation and women interested in insects might be seen as witches. Still, Maria not only painted the insects she saw around her, she brought home silkworms and studied them, watching their metamorphosis and painting what she saw, including their favorite plants and flowers. Continuing to observe and paint from nature in her adult life, she also taught and published books of her illustrations, raised a family, and traveled as far as Suriname to explore the natural world. In contrast to Margarita Engle and Julie Paschkis’ Summer Birds (2010), in which a first-person narrative captures Maria’s childhood voice and joy in the natural world and the illustrations demonstrate the culture’s changing approach to nature, Marsh and Vanzo present a more distant, staid story for young readers. Vanzo’s illustrations, drawn with pencil and digitally colored, are modestly realistic, more so for the insects than humans (all white, including in Suriname). Sadly, the monarch butterflies that intrigue freckle-faced Maria in these images don’t exist in Germany. Even the title is unfortunate: Butterflies and moths are not bugs. An author’s note provides further information about this early naturalist. A few of the artist’s original illustrations are included and sourced, but no sources are given for other information.

Let this one fly away. (Picture book/biography. 4-7)

Pub Date: Feb. 1, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-8075-9257-1

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Whitman

Review Posted Online: Nov. 12, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2018

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It’s a bit sketchy of historical detail, but it’s coherent, inspirational, and engaging without indulging in rapturous...

ROSA PARKS

From the Little People, BIG DREAMS series

A first introduction to the iconic civil rights activist.

“She was very little and very brave, and she always tried to do what was right.” Without many names or any dates, Kaiser traces Parks’ life and career from childhood to later fights for “fair schools, jobs, and houses for black people” as well as “voting rights, women’s rights and the rights of people in prison.” Though her refusal to change seats and the ensuing bus boycott are misleadingly presented as spontaneous acts of protest, young readers will come away with a clear picture of her worth as a role model. Though recognizable thanks to the large wire-rimmed glasses Parks sports from the outset as she marches confidently through Antelo’s stylized illustrations, she looks childlike throughout (as characteristic of this series), and her skin is unrealistically darkened to match the most common shade visible on other African-American figures. In her co-published Emmeline Pankhurst (illustrated by Ana Sanfelippo), Kaiser likewise simplistically implies that Great Britain led the way in granting universal women’s suffrage but highlights her subject’s courageous quest for justice, and Isabel Sánchez Vegara caps her profile of Audrey Hepburn (illustrated by Amaia Arrazola) with the moot but laudable claim that “helping people across the globe” (all of whom in the pictures are dark-skinned children) made Hepburn “happier than acting or dancing ever had.” All three titles end with photographs and timelines over more-detailed recaps plus at least one lead to further information.

It’s a bit sketchy of historical detail, but it’s coherent, inspirational, and engaging without indulging in rapturous flights of hyperbole. (Picture book/biography. 5-7)

Pub Date: Sept. 7, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-78603-018-4

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Frances Lincoln

Review Posted Online: May 10, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2017

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A bland also-ran trailing a large litter of like-themed pups.

WOLF PUPS JOIN THE PACK

From the First Discoveries series

A photo album of young wolves running, playing, and growing through their first year.

Light on factual details, the uncredited text largely runs to vague observations along the lines of the fact that “young wolves need to rest every now and then” or that packs “differ in size. Some are large and have many wolves, while others are small with only a few.” The chief draws here are the big, color, stock photos, which show pups of diverse ages and species, singly or in groups—running, posing alertly with parents or other adult wolves, eating (regurgitated food only, and that not visible), howling, patrolling, and snoozing as a seasonal round turns green meadows to snowy landscapes. In a notably perfunctory insertion squeezed onto the final spread, a wildlife biologist from the American Museum of Natural History introduces himself and describes his research work—all with animals other than wolves. Budding naturalists should have no trouble running down more nourishing fare, from Seymour Simon’s Wolves (1993) to Jonathan London’s Seasons of Little Wolf (illustrated by Jon Van Zyle, 2014) and on. Baby Dolphin’s First Swim follows the same formula even down to profiling exactly the same wildlife biologist.

A bland also-ran trailing a large litter of like-themed pups. (Informational picture book. 5-7)

Pub Date: June 6, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-4549-2237-7

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Sterling

Review Posted Online: April 26, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2017

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