Dry, dispirited, and unlikely to tempt armchair travelers to bestir themselves.


Comparative profiles of 12 historical sites now and in their heydays, from Stonehenge to Macchu Picchu.

“Wonder” is conspicuously absent from this random, perfunctory, nigh-on-depressive archaeological tour that begins with the Great Pyramid at Giza and goes on in no discernible order. The entries mix staid, mechanically drawn, almost uniformly drab views of each site’s main structures now and in the past with narrative commentary. Rather than illuminating the lives or cultures of ancient builders, the text too often runs to equally bland bonbons: “There are frequent buses to and from Cairo”; “Angkor Wat is very important to the Cambodian people.” The entries are reasonably diverse of age and locale (four are European) as well as type: Along with the “lost” city of Petra and other ruins, the moai of Easter Island march in turn, as do the terra-cotta warriors of Qin Shih Huang. All of the large-format spreads feature big, shaped flaps and single or double gatefolds. But for every case where these are used to dramatic visual effect, such as a “now and then” of the Roman Colosseum (and even that is shown in a diagrammatic style), elsewhere lifting the flaps reveals no more than schematic alternatives to compare (the Parthenon), a smaller reconstruction set to one side (Stonehenge, Chichén Itzá), or just more images and bits of information (Petra, “Cleopatra’s Sunken City”).

Dry, dispirited, and unlikely to tempt armchair travelers to bestir themselves. (Informational novelty. 8-13)

Pub Date: Sept. 18, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-78701-340-7

Page Count: 24

Publisher: Lonely Planet

Review Posted Online: Nov. 12, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2018

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Friends of these pollinators will be best served elsewhere.

1001 BEES

This book is buzzing with trivia.

Follow a swarm of bees as they leave a beekeeper’s apiary in search of a new home. As the scout bees traverse the fields, readers are provided with a potpourri of facts and statements about bees. The information is scattered—much like the scout bees—and as a result, both the nominal plot and informational content are tissue-thin. There are some interesting facts throughout the book, but many pieces of trivia are too, well trivial, to prove useful. For example, as the bees travel, readers learn that “onion flowers are round and fluffy” and “fennel is a plant that is used in cooking.” Other facts are oversimplified and as a result are not accurate. For example, monofloral honey is defined as “made by bees who visit just one kind of flower” with no acknowledgment of the fact that bees may range widely, and swarm activity is described as a springtime event, when it can also occur in summer and early fall. The information in the book, such as species identification and measurement units, is directed toward British readers. The flat, thin-lined artwork does little to enhance the story, but an “I spy” game challenging readers to find a specific bee throughout is amusing.

Friends of these pollinators will be best served elsewhere. (Informational picture book. 8-10)

Pub Date: May 18, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-500-65265-7

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Thames & Hudson

Review Posted Online: April 14, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2021

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Contentwise, an arbitrary assortment…but sure to draw fans of comics, of science, or of both.


Flash, Batman, and other characters from the DC Comics universe tackle supervillains and STEM-related topics and sometimes, both.

Credited to 20 writers and illustrators in various combinations, the 10 episodes invite readers to tag along as Mera and Aquaman visit oceanic zones from epipelagic to hadalpelagic; Supergirl helps a young scholar pick a science-project topic by taking her on a tour of the solar system; and Swamp Thing lends Poison Ivy a hand to describe how DNA works (later joining Swamp Kid to scuttle a climate-altering scheme by Arcane). In other episodes, various costumed creations explain the ins and outs of diverse large- and small-scale phenomena, including electricity, atomic structure, forensic techniques, 3-D printing, and the lactate threshold. Presumably on the supposition that the characters will be more familiar to readers than the science, the minilectures tend to start from simple basics, but the figures are mostly both redrawn to look more childlike than in the comics and identified only in passing. Drawing styles and page designs differ from chapter to chapter but not enough to interrupt overall visual unity and flow—and the cast is sufficiently diverse to include roles for superheroes (and villains) of color like Cyborg, Kid Flash, and the Latina Green Lantern, Jessica Cruz. Appended lists of websites and science-based YouTube channels, plus instructions for homespun activities related to each episode, point inspired STEM-winders toward further discoveries.

Contentwise, an arbitrary assortment…but sure to draw fans of comics, of science, or of both. (Graphic nonfiction. 9-12)

Pub Date: Feb. 2, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-77950-382-4

Page Count: 160

Publisher: DC

Review Posted Online: Jan. 13, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2021

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