CAO CHONG WEIGHS AN ELEPHANT

Nicely produced and balanced in its instructive approach.

When a giant elephant arrives as a birthday present for the prime minister of Han, his 6-year-old prodigy son, Cao Chong, orchestrates a plan to measure the beast’s weight.

Amazed by its size, spectators begin to place wagers on the elephant’s enormous weight. But without a scale large enough and strong enough to withstand the animal’s hefty mass, a challenge is presented to the prime minister’s advisers. Much deliberation ensues, and when a suggestion to slice the elephant into smaller pieces to fit on a regular scale is made, Chong intervenes with a more clever and ingenious plan. The mathematical puzzle is deftly explained in a story based on ancient Chinese history. Chong places the elephant in a boat, marks a water line on the outside of the boat, replaces the elephant with as many rocks as needed to lower the boat to the same water level and combines the principal of buoyancy with the total volume of rocks to calculate the elephant’s weight. Black-outlined colorful paintings provide a lush backdrop for the story’s circa–200 C.E. China setting, with royal characters in long robes and bejeweled crowns. An addendum includes well-defined activities for understanding buoyancy and scale measurement, a succinct history and geography of the Han Dynasty, and a biography of Cao Chong.

Nicely produced and balanced in its instructive approach. (Picture book. 5-8)

Pub Date: Sept. 10, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-62855-903-3

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Arbordale Publishing

Review Posted Online: July 1, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2017

BUTT OR FACE?

A gleeful game for budding naturalists.

Artfully cropped animal portraits challenge viewers to guess which end they’re seeing.

In what will be a crowd-pleasing and inevitably raucous guessing game, a series of close-up stock photos invite children to call out one of the titular alternatives. A page turn reveals answers and basic facts about each creature backed up by more of the latter in a closing map and table. Some of the posers, like the tail of an okapi or the nose on a proboscis monkey, are easy enough to guess—but the moist nose on a star-nosed mole really does look like an anus, and the false “eyes” on the hind ends of a Cuyaba dwarf frog and a Promethea moth caterpillar will fool many. Better yet, Lavelle saves a kicker for the finale with a glimpse of a small parasitical pearlfish peeking out of a sea cucumber’s rear so that the answer is actually face and butt. “Animal identification can be tricky!” she concludes, noting that many of the features here function as defenses against attack: “In the animal world, sometimes your butt will save your face and your face just might save your butt!” (This book was reviewed digitally.)

A gleeful game for budding naturalists. (author’s note) (Informational picture book. 6-8)

Pub Date: July 11, 2023

ISBN: 9781728271170

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Sourcebooks eXplore

Review Posted Online: May 9, 2023

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2023

BASKETBALL DREAMS

Blandly inspirational fare made to evoke equally shrink-wrapped responses.

An NBA star pays tribute to the influence of his grandfather.

In the same vein as his Long Shot (2009), illustrated by Frank Morrison, this latest from Paul prioritizes values and character: “My granddad Papa Chilly had dreams that came true,” he writes, “so maybe if I listen and watch him, / mine will too.” So it is that the wide-eyed Black child in the simply drawn illustrations rises early to get to the playground hoops before anyone else, watches his elder working hard and respecting others, hears him cheering along with the rest of the family from the stands during games, and recalls in a prose afterword that his grandfather wasn’t one to lecture but taught by example. Paul mentions in both the text and the backmatter that Papa Chilly was the first African American to own a service station in North Carolina (his presumed dream) but not that he was killed in a robbery, which has the effect of keeping the overall tone positive and the instructional content one-dimensional. Figures in the pictures are mostly dark-skinned. (This book was reviewed digitally.)

Blandly inspirational fare made to evoke equally shrink-wrapped responses. (Picture book. 6-8)

Pub Date: Jan. 10, 2023

ISBN: 978-1-250-81003-8

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Roaring Brook Press

Review Posted Online: Sept. 27, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2022

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