Both friendly and inspiring—just like its subject.

STAR STUFF

CARL SAGAN AND THE MYSTERIES OF THE COSMOS

Young Carl Sagan looks endearingly like his grown-up self, with expressive dark eyebrows and a cheerful look of inquiry, in this warm account of the life of the notable scientist.

Sisson captures an important moment in young Sagan’s life. In a library, where he has been handed a book on stars, “Carl’s heart beat faster with every page he turned.” The next double-page spread offers a vertical orientation and a gatefold opening skyward, as if Carl himself were soaring into space. He imagines extraterrestrial life and space travel among the planets—and though he can’t wish himself to Mars, he finds a way to get there in spirit. The text sums this up with brevity: “He studied life and space and became… / …Dr. Carl Sagan.” Sisson’s economical narrative and lighthearted illustrations convey Sagan’s regard for the power of imagination and his generous approach to knowledge. She includes the accomplishments for which Sagan will be remembered: his passion for science and space discovery that he shared with the world through his television appearances and the creation and launching of space missions—in particular the Voyager probes, with their recordings of Earth sounds and sights. Abundant backmatter (oddly missing Sagan’s birth date) is compactly delivered in a two-page spread with a list of quotations and sources, a bibliography/resource list and an author’s note.

Both friendly and inspiring—just like its subject. (Picture book/biography. 4-8)

Pub Date: Nov. 4, 2014

ISBN: 978-1-59643-960-3

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Roaring Brook Press

Review Posted Online: Sept. 14, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2014

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

Readers will agree that “Melba Doretta Liston was something special.” (Picture book. 4-8)

LITTLE MELBA AND HER BIG TROMBONE

Bewitched by the rhythms of jazz all around her in Depression-era Kansas City, little Melba Doretta Liston longs to make music in this fictional account of a little-known jazz great.

Picking up the trombone at 7, the little girl teaches herself to play with the support of her Grandpa John and Momma Lucille, performing on the radio at 8 and touring as a pro at just 17. Both text and illustrations make it clear that it’s not all easy for Melba; “The Best Service for WHITES ONLY” reads a sign in a hotel window as the narrative describes a bigotry-plagued tour in the South with Billie Holiday. But joy carries the day, and the story ends on a high note, with Melba “dazzling audiences and making headlines” around the world. Russell-Brown’s debut text has an innate musicality, mixing judicious use of onomatopoeia with often sonorous prose. Morrison’s sinuous, exaggerated lines are the perfect match for Melba’s story; she puts her entire body into her playing, the exaggerated arch of her back and thrust of her shoulders mirroring the curves of her instrument. In one thrilling spread, the evening gown–clad instrumentalist stands over the male musicians, her slide crossing the gutter while the back bow disappears off the page to the left. An impressive discography complements a two-page afterword and a thorough bibliography.

Readers will agree that “Melba Doretta Liston was something special.” (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: July 1, 2014

ISBN: 978-1-60060-898-8

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Lee & Low Books

Review Posted Online: June 4, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2014

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

A good bet for the youngest bird-watchers.

MAMA BUILT A LITTLE NEST

Echoing the meter of “Mary Had a Little Lamb,” Ward uses catchy original rhymes to describe the variety of nests birds create.

Each sweet stanza is complemented by a factual, engaging description of the nesting habits of each bird. Some of the notes are intriguing, such as the fact that the hummingbird uses flexible spider web to construct its cup-shaped nest so the nest will stretch as the chicks grow. An especially endearing nesting behavior is that of the emperor penguin, who, with unbelievable patience, incubates the egg between his tummy and his feet for up to 60 days. The author clearly feels a mission to impart her extensive knowledge of birds and bird behavior to the very young, and she’s found an appealing and attractive way to accomplish this. The simple rhymes on the left page of each spread, written from the young bird’s perspective, will appeal to younger children, and the notes on the right-hand page of each spread provide more complex factual information that will help parents answer further questions and satisfy the curiosity of older children. Jenkins’ accomplished collage illustrations of common bird species—woodpecker, hummingbird, cowbird, emperor penguin, eagle, owl, wren—as well as exotics, such as flamingoes and hornbills, are characteristically naturalistic and accurate in detail.

A good bet for the youngest bird-watchers.   (author’s note, further resources) (Informational picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: March 18, 2014

ISBN: 978-1-4424-2116-5

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Beach Lane/Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: Jan. 4, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2014

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet
more