A routine, juiceless candidate chugging straight for the storage yard.

TRAINS

From the Ultimate Spotlight series

How modern freight and passenger trains look and go, with flaps to offer inside views.

As exercises in bland generalities go, this French import stays solidly on the rails—pairing labels or colorless comments (“The engine car is the only part of the train with an engine”) to impersonal painted views of toylike trains. These all look inert, whether en route through artificial-looking settings or sitting at platforms amid diverse clots of small human figures, all with smiles and dot eyes, strolling or scurrying past. A spare assortment of flaps and pull tabs open sliding doors, show rows of empty or occupied seats, depict a select gallery of freight-car types, or allow glimpses of wheels, electrical arms, and the engineer in the cab. Aside from a postage-stamp–size image of a “Peruvian mountain train” and the barest nose of a maglev, the trains on view, named or not, are all European (or partly, in the case of the Trans-Siberian Railway).

A routine, juiceless candidate chugging straight for the storage yard. (Informational picture book/novelty. 6-8)

Pub Date: Feb. 4, 2020

ISBN: 979-1-03631-358-5

Page Count: 14

Publisher: Twirl/Chronicle

Review Posted Online: Dec. 8, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2020

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Phoned-in illustrations keep this quick overview firmly planted on the launch pad.

THE BIG BEYOND

THE STORY OF SPACE TRAVEL

A capsule history of space exploration, from early stargazing to probes roaming the surface of Mars.

In loosely rhymed couplets Carter’s high-speed account zooms past the inventions of constellations, telescopes, and flying machines to the launches of Sputnik I, the “Saturn Five” (spelled out, probably, to facilitate the rhyme) that put men on the moon, and later probes. He caps it all with an enticing suggestion: “We’ll need an astronaut (or two)— / so what do you think? Could it be YOU?” Cushley lines up a notably diverse array of prospective young space travelers for this finish, but anachronistic earlier views of a dark-skinned astronaut floating in orbit opposite poetic references to the dogs, cats, and other animals sent into space in the 1950s and a model of the space shuttle on a shelf next to a line of viewers watching the televised moon landing in 1969 show no great regard for verisimilitude. Also, his full-page opening picture of the Challenger, its ports painted to look like a smiley face, just moments before it blew up is a decidedly odd choice to illustrate the poem’s opening countdown. As with his cosmological lyric Once upon a Star (2018, illustrated by Mar Hernández), the poet closes with a page of further facts arranged as an acrostic.

Phoned-in illustrations keep this quick overview firmly planted on the launch pad. (Informational picture book. 6-8)

Pub Date: April 1, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-68010-147-8

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Tiger Tales

Review Posted Online: Jan. 15, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2019

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ASTRONAUTS

From the Ultimate Spotlight series

Astronauts train, ride a Soyuz rocket up a slider to the International Space Station, then return to Earth when their mission is done.

This introduction is so sketchy that the narrative and the pictures differ on the actual number of astronauts involved, and the captions offer a mix of specific facts and fragmentary filler (“The third stage includes an engine”; “The spacesuit provides oxygen for breathing”). Nevertheless, this quick overview of a generic visit to the ISS does reflect both the international character of space missions (at least currently) and the diversity of modern flight crews. Aside from the sliding Soyuz, there are only two small pop-ups, but each of the five openings features cut or folded flaps with additional information or inside views beneath. Along with simply drawn spacecraft and technical gear, Peintre casts a mixed crew of men and women, mostly light skinned but some with darker skin and/or puffy hair. Though individualized, they seem to be just interchangeable place holders, as in one scene the same figure appears twice. The interactive effects are larger and more varied in the co-published Savannah Animals, also by Dussaussois but illustrated by Aurélie Verdon.

A dud rocket. (Informational novelty. 6-8)

Pub Date: Sept. 3, 2019

ISBN: 979-1-02760-703-7

Page Count: 14

Publisher: Twirl/Chronicle

Review Posted Online: July 24, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2019

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