Informative and appealing—but flawed.

INSECTS

A photo essay invites young readers to explore the world of insects.

Master science writer Simon knows how to craft nonfiction, choosing interesting topics, appropriate examples, and just the right level of information for elementary school readers. His newest title is no exception. Well-organized, lucid descriptions include the characteristics of insects, their body parts, life stages, size, numbers, history, and sensory equipment. He goes into further detail about five common orders: Coleoptera (beetles), Orthoptera (grasshoppers and crickets), Hymenoptera (bees and wasps), Lepidoptera (butterflies and moths), and Odonata (dragonflies and damselflies). He describes other insects that stand out—strangest, most beautiful, fastest, heaviest, longest, and smallest—and concludes with the importance of insects in the world. Carefully chosen and beautifully reproduced photographs (most from Shutterstock) appear on each page. Vocabulary that might be unfamiliar is printed in boldface and defined in a glossary. Alas, in this otherwise splendid introduction, the author says “Butterflies and moths are similar in these ways:...Larvae form cocoons during the pupa stage before they emerge as adults.” This is not true of most butterflies, which protect themselves as pupae with chrysalises. Scientists and teachers have been working to correct this common misconception, and young readers who know something about insects will recognize the mistake. (Indeed, the caption on the facing page says, “Butterfly emerges from chrysalis.”

Informative and appealing—but flawed. (index, websites) (Nonfiction. 6-10)

Pub Date: July 5, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-06-228915-5

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: April 13, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2016

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Everything that readers have come to love about the Elephant & Piggie books is present—masterful pacing, easy-to-follow,...

MY NEW FRIEND IS SO FUN!

From the Elephant & Piggie series

Can Gerald and Piggie’s friendship withstand the friendly overtures of Brian Bat?

When Snake informs Gerald that Piggie is playing with Brian Bat, he is at first complacent. Brian is “nice,” he observes; Snake concurs—after all, he says, “Brian is my Best Friend!” Their mutual reflection that Piggie and Brian “must be having a super-duper fun time!” turns, however, to paranoia when they realize that if their best pals “are having that much fun together, then… / …maybe they do not need us” (that last is printed in teeny-tiny, utterly demoralized type). Gerald and Snake dash/slither to put an end to the fun. Their fears are confirmed when the two new buddies tell them they have “been playing BEST FRIEND GAMES!”—which, it turns out, means making drawings of their respective best friends, Gerald and Snake. Awww. While the buildup to the friends’ confrontation is characteristically funny, there’s a certain feeling of anticlimax to the story’s resolution. How many young children, when playing with a new friend, are likely to spend their time thinking of the friends that they are not playing with? This is unfortunate, as the emotions that Gerald and Snake experience are realistic and profound, deserving of more than a platitudinous, unrealistic response.

Everything that readers have come to love about the Elephant & Piggie books is present—masterful pacing, easy-to-follow, color-coded speech bubbles, hilarious body language—except an emotionally satisfying ending. (Early reader. 6-8)

Pub Date: June 3, 2014

ISBN: 978-1-4231-7958-0

Page Count: 64

Publisher: Hyperion

Review Posted Online: May 4, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2014

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A dramatic, educational, authentic whale of a tale.

A WHALE OF THE WILD

After a tsunami devastates their habitat in the Salish Sea, a young orca and her brother embark on a remarkable adventure.

Vega’s matriarchal family expects her to become a hunter and wayfinder, with her younger brother, Deneb, protecting and supporting her. Invited to guide her family to their Gathering Place to hunt salmon, Vega’s underwater miscalculations endanger them all, and an embarrassed Vega questions whether she should be a wayfinder. When the baby sister she hoped would become her life companion is stillborn, a distraught Vega carries the baby away to a special resting place, shocking her grieving family. Dispatched to find his missing sister, Deneb locates Vega in the midst of a terrible tsunami. To escape the waters polluted by shattered boats, Vega leads Deneb into unfamiliar open sea. Alone and hungry, the young siblings encounter a spectacular giant whale and travel briefly with shark-hunting orcas. Trusting her instincts and gaining emotional strength from contemplating the vastness of the sky, Vega knows she must lead her brother home and help save her surviving family. In alternating first-person voices, Vega and Deneb tell their harrowing story, engaging young readers while educating them about the marine ecosystem. Realistic black-and-white illustrations enhance the maritime setting.

A dramatic, educational, authentic whale of a tale. (maps, wildlife facts, tribes of the Salish Sea watershed, environmental and geographical information, how to help orcas, author’s note, artist’s note, resources) (Animal fiction. 8-10)

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-06-299592-6

Page Count: 240

Publisher: Greenwillow Books

Review Posted Online: July 1, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2020

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