An admiring, respectful treatment of a highly accomplished scientist.

A brilliant astronomer set her sights high.

Vera Rubin, the child and grandchild of Jewish immigrants, was always fascinated by stars; by age 10, she knew she wanted to become an astronomer. But few colleges permitted women to study astronomy. Vassar did and offered her a scholarship. A brilliant student, she breezed through her courses and subsequently earned master’s and PhD degrees. Vera’s next challenge was to gain access to huge observatory telescopes, since men had priority. She scored a major victory, though: Due to her stellar reputation, the scientists at California’s Palomar Observatory broke their rule about barring women from using their powerful telescope, and she became the first woman to observe there. Vera made a huge breakthrough when she proved that stars on the outer edges of spiral galaxies moved at the same speed as those near the center. Other astronomers dismissed her findings, but Vera realized that an invisible force was causing this phenomenon: dark matter. More women in STEM fields should be brought to young readers’ attention; this is a well-written, absorbing portrait of a brilliant female scientist in a particularly male-dominated field. Quotes from Rubin are sprinkled throughout, like stars. The illustrations, created with hand-painted watercolor washes and ink lines that were enhanced digitally, have a “cosmic” feel to them, with lots of night-sky purple, swirling planets, and starlike points of color.

An admiring, respectful treatment of a highly accomplished scientist. (author’s note, Dr. Rubin’s dark matter discovery, timeline, bibliography, photos, photo credits) (Picture-book biography. 7-10)

Pub Date: Nov. 7, 2023

ISBN: 9781635926019

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Calkins Creek/Astra Books for Young Readers

Review Posted Online: Nov. 4, 2023

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2023

1001 BEES

Friends of these pollinators will be best served elsewhere.

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 13, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2021


From the Everything Awesome About… series

A quick flight but a blast from first to last.

A charged-up roundup of astro-facts.

Having previously explored everything awesome about both dinosaurs (2019) and sharks (2020), Lowery now heads out along a well-traveled route, taking readers from the Big Bang through a planet-by-planet tour of the solar system and then through a selection of space-exploration highlights. The survey isn’t unique, but Lowery does pour on the gosh-wow by filling each hand-lettered, poster-style spread with emphatic colors and graphics. He also goes for the awesome in his selection of facts—so that readers get nothing about Newton’s laws of motion, for instance, but will come away knowing that just 65 years separate the Wright brothers’ flight and the first moon landing. They’ll also learn that space is silent but smells like burned steak (according to astronaut Chris Hadfield), that thanks to microgravity no one snores on the International Space Station, and that Buzz Aldrin was the first man on the moon…to use the bathroom. And, along with a set of forgettable space jokes (OK, one: “Why did the carnivore eat the shooting star?” “Because it was meteor”), the backmatter features drawing instructions for budding space artists and a short but choice reading list. Nods to Katherine Johnson and NASA’s other African American “computers” as well as astronomer Vera Rubin give women a solid presence in the otherwise male and largely White cast of humans. (This book was reviewed digitally.)

A quick flight but a blast from first to last. (Informational picture book. 7-10)

Pub Date: Sept. 7, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-338-35974-9

Page Count: 128

Publisher: Orchard/Scholastic

Review Posted Online: July 26, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2021

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