A mildly agenda-driven companion to the less-cosmic likes of John Rocco’s Blackout (2011) or Jonathan Bean’s intimate At...

BRIGHT SKY, STARRY CITY

A nighttime power outage transforms a young urban sky watcher’s frustration to joy.

Outside her father’s telescope shop, Phoebe chalks the solar system on the sidewalk, looks up at the faint, paltry sky show, and wishes that just once all the bright city lights would go out. A sudden storm grants her wish, and the clouds clear to reveal stars in the hundreds, constellations that she “had only ever seen / in pictures,” a rare conjunction of Saturn and Mars, and the pale, gauzy Milky Way. “How deep the night was / and how endless!” Using a mix of pastels, chalks, and collage, Sicuro depicts Phoebe looking, usually, up and marveling at the spangled skies, the connected dots of constellations, and the two easily recognizable planets floating in the vasty deep. Puzzling choices include showing Phoebe peering through a telescope pointed down rather than up and lifting her arms in a final scene to a sky that looks more washed out than on previous pages. Still, views of her, her father, and wonderstruck passersby gazing up past crowded rooftops capture a strong sense of a special, shared moment. Along with a quixotic kvetch about light pollution, the author appends quick descriptions of the solar system, moons, planetary conjunctions, and optical telescopes.

A mildly agenda-driven companion to the less-cosmic likes of John Rocco’s Blackout (2011) or Jonathan Bean’s intimate At Night (2007). (bibliography, glossary) (Picture book. 6-8)

Pub Date: May 12, 2015

ISBN: 978-1-55498-405-3

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Groundwood

Review Posted Online: March 3, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2015

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Produced to celebrate the National Park Service’s upcoming centenary, a breezy invitation to prospective travelers to “get...

OUR GREAT BIG BACKYARD

A family road trip through several national parks transforms young Jane’s feelings about missing out on a summer of online fun with her friends.

“There’s absolutely nothing to see here,” Jane emails fretfully as her family drives through the scenic Smoky Mountains and canoes past alligators and manatees in the Everglades. But once her dad gets her to put the tablet away and look through a telescope at the night skies over Big Bend National Park, her attitude transforms: “OH WOW!” Soon she’s tiptoeing over the Grand Canyon’s Skywalk like an acrobat, playing pirate on a raft down the Colorado River, scouting out “Mountain lions, buffalo, and bears. Oh my!” in Yellowstone—and, discovering that she’s misplaced her electronic device, sending written postcards to her friends from Yosemite. Furthermore, once back home, what better way to debrief than a backyard cookout under the stars? Giving blonde Jane and the rest of her white family broad, pleasant features, Rogers sends them smiling and singing their way through a succession of natural wonders, with bears and bald eagles, footnotes (adult supervision required on the Skywalk, for instance), and only a few fellow, occasionally diverse tourists in the background. Endpaper maps track the long itinerary, and a (select) list of other national parks and sites in each state offers more destinations.

Produced to celebrate the National Park Service’s upcoming centenary, a breezy invitation to prospective travelers to “get out there!” (Picture book. 6-8)

Pub Date: May 10, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-06-246835-2

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: May 4, 2016

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Life’s questions remain unanswered in this attractive but frustratingly bland book.

THE BOY AND THE SEA

A boy’s life is steered by and reflected in his relationship with the sea.

In a series of swirling, impressionistic, watercolor seascapes, a dark-haired, white-skinned boy is pictured at different life stages: as a young child; as a grown man with a family; and as an old man. At each stage, he receives a meaningful message from the sea. His moods are reflected in the moods of the sea, sometimes “dark and dangerous,” sometimes “tranquil and tender.” As the boy moves through the life stages, both he and the sea feel “the pull of something more.” He looks to the sea for answers to life’s questions, and sometimes they are answered—but just with a word: dream, love, be. Even when he is grown, he still does not know the answers to his questions. In its coverage of an entire life’s span, the book seems to be attempting to provide a universal message of guidance for growing up, but it’s too general and lacking in any kind of strong connection to be of value or of interest to a developing child. Small vignettes hint at adolescent conflicts, but so obliquely and superficially as to be valueless and at times obscure—particularly given that the audience for this book has not yet reached adolescence. That said, Bates’ paintings are lovely, capturing foamy, cresting waves in varying degrees of vigor; this seascape is never still. (This book was reviewed digitally with 8.5-by-22-inch double-page spreads viewed at 50% of actual size.)

Life’s questions remain unanswered in this attractive but frustratingly bland book. (Picture book. 6-8)

Pub Date: May 11, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-4197-4940-7

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Abrams

Review Posted Online: March 31, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2021

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