Attractive, informative, and beautifully designed.

BUGS FROM HEAD TO TAIL

From the Head to Tail series

In this introductory picture book, each of eight different “bugs” is allotted four pages, which include an initial, illustrated question followed by the answer and then additional art and text.

Following the title’s lead, the first question, in large lettering on the verso, is “What kind of bug has a head like this?” An enormous paper collage resembling the head of a rhinoceros spreads across both pages. Upon turning the page, the lettering triumphantly announces, “A rhinoceros beetle!” and gives a few exciting facts about the creature. On this double-page spread, a full-bodied, paper-collage rhinoceros beetle is surrounded by its environment—created from mixed-media, including photographs of stones and underbrush. Equally impressive combinations of art and text follow. The text is clear, and scientific vocabulary includes concise definitions, as in “These wings are part of the ladybug’s exoskeleton, or ‘outside skeleton.’ ” The questions move from head to antennae to eyes to body to wings to hair to legs to tail—with “tail” explained as a trick question. The final double-page spread offers a gallery of seven more “awesome bugs” and a sidebar about further classifications. Every digitally created habitat collage is a worthy match to the carefully worded text. The round, wide-pupiled eyes of the bugs make them all—even the tarantula—appear benign and endearing. Even the aquamarine endpapers abound with friendly bug images.

Attractive, informative, and beautifully designed. (Informational picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: Oct. 3, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-77138-729-3

Page Count: 36

Publisher: Kids Can

Review Posted Online: June 14, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2017

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Despite minor bumps, a ride that’s worth returning to.

HOW TO CODE A ROLLERCOASTER

Pearl and her robot, Pascal, take their coding skills for a spin at the amusement park in this Girls Who Code picture book, a follow-up to How To Code a Sandcastle (2018).

The park has many rides to choose from, and Pearl has 10 tokens to last her the day. But her favorite ride, the Python roller coaster, looks busy. Pearl decides to do something else fun, using code concepts such as variables to keep track of the length of the line and her remaining tokens and a conditional statement to decide when to return to the Python. Throughout, computer science terms are defined crisply in the text and vividly illustrated in the pictures, which use images such as popcorn bags for variables and the Ferris wheel for loops (keeping track of ice cream flavors seems somewhat contrived). The backmatter explains these ideas more fully. Pascal’s too-literal interpretations of Pearl’s statements make for several amusing moments along the way. When Pearl runs short of tokens (a missed opportunity to talk about checking for more than one condition?), she’s undaunted by the disaster, taking readers on a fun hunt for a secret hidden password, in a nod to the importance of proper sequencing. Pearl has brown skin and black curls; others at the park have a variety of skin tones.

Despite minor bumps, a ride that’s worth returning to. (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: Sept. 24, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-425-29203-7

Page Count: 44

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: June 23, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2019

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An astonishing work of art and a crucial addition to every bookshelf.

WHEN WE SAY BLACK LIVES MATTER

The author of The Patchwork Bike (illustrated by Van Thanh Rudd, 2016) writes to children about the meaning of the phrase Black Lives Matter.

Pastel illustrations, also by Clarke, on dark, textured paper are paired with oversized, contrasting text addressed to “Little one.” In the visuals, a family that begins as a couple expecting a baby grows into a family with a child and then becomes part of a community in protest, marching for Black lives, before a final page shows a jubilant Black boy in a cap and gown. The adult narrator explains that “when we say Black Lives Matter, / we’re saying Black people are wonderful-strong.” Other meanings of the rallying cry, when it is called out, screamed, sung, laughed, and known, include a demand for respect, a defiant joy, a channeling of ancestors, an acknowledgment of trouble, and knowing one’s worth. Clarke’s text is poignant and mesmerizing, with design elements that raise the text to an artistic level, shaping it around the art and highlighting active and emotional words in color: enough, dancing, radiant, precious. The art is truly outstanding, gripping the heart from the very first spread and not letting go. With colored shapes and stained-glass motifs, these Black figures feel real and weighty. Within this deep dive are tragedy, fear, anger, and mourning alongside hope, comfort, strength, and triumph. This slim book contains a necessary and healing exploration of our current moment that will remain relevant for decades to come.

An astonishing work of art and a crucial addition to every bookshelf. (Picture book. 4-10)

Pub Date: Sept. 14, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-5362-2238-8

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Candlewick

Review Posted Online: June 29, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2021

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An auspicious primer on some very big numbers.

A HUNDRED BILLION TRILLION STARS

Huge numbers take on an even bigger scale in Fishman and Greenberg’s insightful, awe-inspiring picture book.

A secret shared between narrator and the reader kicks things off: “The sun is just a star. / And there are (maybe) 100,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 stars.” (Readers will be grateful for the “a hundred billion trillion” printed in the corner.) Stars too many to count, in various sizes and shapes, fill the double-page spread, illustrating the comically large number centered on the page. It’s enough to leave most flabbergasted, but Fishman aims for much more as he zeroes in on one particular blue-and-green planet. Even this celestial orb has its secrets: “Blue because it’s covered by 370,000,000,000,000,000,000 gallons of water. Green because it’s covered in 3,000,000,000,000 trees.” From there it’s all about the (innumerable) details. For example, 10 quadrillion ants may equal 7.5 billion humans in weight (as terrifying as that sounds); meanwhile, 420 million dogs or guitars lined up head to foot circle the Earth about 10 times. The figures aren’t precise, but quibbling over exactness almost misses the point of the book. A constant throughout this excursion, however, is Greenberg’s digital artwork, which features bold, thick lines, vibrant colors and shapes, and a diverse cast of nameless characters. More notable perhaps is the author’s persistent focus on the reader: “There’s only one of YOU.” Such a statement threatens to veer into ham-fisted territory, but here it serves to underline how amazing it is to be the only one.

An auspicious primer on some very big numbers. (author’s note) (Informational picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: Sept. 12, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-06-245578-9

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Greenwillow Books

Review Posted Online: June 19, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2017

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