Occasionally amusing, rarely fresh, this expands the author’s picture-book account, My Journey to the Stars (illustrated by...



Kelly recalls piloting space shuttles and living aboard the International Space Station.

Pared down from the 2017 version for adults, stripped of its profanity, and rearranged into a linear narrative, this memoir still manages to be slow off the launch pad, woodenly conventional (if infused with deadpan humor), and anticlimactic at the close. Kelly begins with his very earliest memories and traces his youth from an epiphanic encounter with Tom Wolfe’s The Right Stuff (“I closed the book that night a different person”) to military-style nautical training (“a different person”) and graduation from New York’s Maritime College (“a completely different person”). Experiences as a U.S. Navy test pilot led to astronaut training, two shuttle flights, and two ISS gigs. In an apparent bid for attention from young readers he comes off throughout as positively obsessed with space toilets and the diapers American astronauts wear when bathroom trips are not an option. Of (perhaps) greater interest are his memories of working and living with colleagues from Russia and other countries after the space shuttle program ended. These are enlivened by comments about space food (“The Russians also have something called ‘the Appetizing Appetizer,’ which it is not”) and other details seldom if ever found in other astronaut biographies. He closes with a tally of general-issue life lessons. Finished photos and backmatter not seen.

Occasionally amusing, rarely fresh, this expands the author’s picture-book account, My Journey to the Stars (illustrated by André Ceolin, 2017), without adding much significant. (Memoir. 10-16)

Pub Date: Oct. 30, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-5247-6424-1

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Crown

Review Posted Online: June 25, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2018

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A breezy, bustling bucketful of courageous acts and eye-popping feats.


From the They Did What? series

Why should grown-ups get all the historical, scientific, athletic, cinematic, and artistic glory?

Choosing exemplars from both past and present, Mitchell includes but goes well beyond Alexander the Great, Anne Frank, and like usual suspects to introduce a host of lesser-known luminaries. These include Shapur II, who was formally crowned king of Persia before he was born, Indian dancer/professional architect Sheila Sri Prakash, transgender spokesperson Jazz Jennings, inventor Param Jaggi, and an international host of other teen or preteen activists and prodigies. The individual portraits range from one paragraph to several pages in length, and they are interspersed with group tributes to, for instance, the Nazi-resisting “Swingkinder,” the striking New York City newsboys, and the marchers of the Birmingham Children’s Crusade. Mitchell even offers would-be villains a role model in Elagabalus, “boy emperor of Rome,” though she notes that he, at least, came to an awful end: “Then, then! They dumped his remains in the Tiber River, to be nommed by fish for all eternity.” The entries are arranged in no evident order, and though the backmatter includes multiple booklists, a personality quiz, a glossary, and even a quick Braille primer (with Braille jokes to decode), there is no index. Still, for readers whose fires need lighting, there’s motivational kindling on nearly every page.

A breezy, bustling bucketful of courageous acts and eye-popping feats. (finished illustrations not seen) (Collective biography. 10-13)

Pub Date: May 10, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-14-751813-2

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Puffin

Review Posted Online: Nov. 11, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2015

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Wordplay and wry wit put extra fun into a trove of fundamental knowledge.


With an amped-up sense of wonder, the Science Guy surveys the natural universe.

Starting from first principles like the scientific method, Nye and his co-author marvel at the “Amazing Machine” that is the human body then go on to talk up animals, plants, evolution, physics and chemistry, the quantum realm, geophysics, and climate change. They next venture out into the solar system and beyond. Along with tallying select aspects and discoveries in each chapter, the authors gather up “Massively Important” central concepts, send shoutouts to underrecognized women scientists like oceanographer Marie Tharp, and slip in directions for homespun experiments and demonstrations. They also challenge readers to ponder still-unsolved scientific posers and intersperse rousing quotes from working scientists about how exciting and wide open their respective fields are. If a few of those fields, like the fungal kingdom, get short shrift (one spare paragraph notwithstanding), readers are urged often enough to go look things up for themselves to kindle a compensatory habit. Aside from posed photos of Nye and a few more of children (mostly presenting as White) doing science-y things, the full-color graphic and photographic images not only reflect the overall “get this!” tone but consistently enrich the flow of facts and reflections. “Our universe is a strange and surprising place,” Nye writes. “Stay curious.” Words to live by.

Wordplay and wry wit put extra fun into a trove of fundamental knowledge. (contributors, art credits, selected bibliography, index) (Nonfiction. 11-15)

Pub Date: Oct. 27, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-4197-4676-5

Page Count: 264

Publisher: Abrams

Review Posted Online: Aug. 25, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2020

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